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Smithsonian Institution 


Alexander Wetmore 

i c} 4 6 Sixth Secretary 1953 

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" There are cases in which our public duty is so clear and imperious, that no desire of 
praise, no motive of personal respect, no wish to gratify our friends, nor any other con- 
sideration, however powerful, can enable us to dispense with it." — Fox. 



M.P., G.C.B., &c. &c, 





&fjt0 OTotfc ts Bg permission Beoicateo 




Deeply impressed with the political and commercial 
necessity of opening a great Highway to the Pacific, 
free to all nations, and independent of the American 
monopoly at Panama, I found myself in the unenviable 
dilemma of either quietly looking on and seeing the 
dearest interests of my country permanently sacrificed, 
or making a bold effort to secure for them the consi- 
deration which their importance imperatively demanded. 
In adopting the latter alternative I have not shut my 
eyes to the difficulties of the task. In order to do any 
good, I had to call a spade a spade, nail my colours to 
the mast, and denounce a timid and un-English policy. 
Moreover, Central American affairs, and their bearings 
upon those of Great Britain, are so little understood by 
the general public, that all I might write would appear 
mere verbiage, unless my readers could be placed in 
possession of all the facts of the case, hitherto dis- 
persed in a variety of official documents and trustworthy 


publications. How to do this, and at the same time 
produce a readable book, was a difficulty at which ex- 
perienced writers may smile, but which looked rather 
formidable to a man like myself, who has spent fewer 
years at school than he has amongst the icebergs of the 
Arctic regions, or under the scorching rays of tropical 

My best thanks are due to those kind friends who 
have furnished me with information, and enabled me to 
embellish my work with illustrations. I am especially 
indebted to Sir William Gore Ouseley and Mr. Sewell 
for their spirited sketches of Nicaraguan scenery, and 
to Captain Anderson, of the King's Own Staffordshire 
Militia, for putting all the illustrations into shape for 
the lithographer. 

Bedfoed Pim. 

Belsize Park, Hampstead, N.W. 
February, 1863. 




English Good Settlers. — Best Means of securing the Attachment of 
Colonies. — General Opposition to Quick Locomotion. — Monroe 
Doctrine. — Panama Route no Highway of Nations. — Political and 
Commercial Necessity of a New Transit Line through Central 
America. — Colonel Walker. — My Surveys and Explorations. — 
G-reytown Harbour silting up. — Surrender of Important Rights. — 
Endeavours to establish an Independent Line . . . .1 


Boundaries of Central America. — Political Divisions. — Extent and 
Area. — Comparison of the Two Great Isthmuses of the World. — 
Isthmus of Panama (Panama and Veraguas). — Provinces of Mexico 
(Yucatan and Chiapas). — Belize. — Costarica. — San Salvador. — Tra- 
dition. — Honduras and Bay Islands. — Abandonment of Fellow- 
Countrymen. — Guatemala . . . . . . . .15 


Boundaries of Nicaragua. — Climate. — Temperature. — Early Ac- 
counts. — Aborigines. — Costume. — Little Change since the Con- 
quest, — Character of Indians. — The Spanish Rule. — Historical No- 
tices. — Colonel William Walker. — Filibusterism. — Destruction of 
the Transit. — Walker's Battles. — Defence of the Guadalupe 
Church. — Expulsion of Walker. — His Real Object and Policy. — 
Selfishness of the other States. — Walker's Execution. — Adminis- 
tration of President Martinez 32 




Sketch of the Mosquito Shore. — Papal Bull of Alexander VI. — Nel- 
son and Mosquito. — Disgraceful Treaty. — Defeat of the Spaniards 
at Black River. — Expulsion of the Nicaraguans. — Grey town. — Its 
Destruction. — Silting up of Greytown Harbour. — Remarks on the 
Climate. — Mosquito Indians. — Moravian Missionaries. — Blew- 
fields. — Corn Islands. — Population and Area of Central America . 55 


Schemes of Transit by Canalization. — Isthmus of Tehuantepec— 
Eernando Cortez. — Priestly Opinion of Transit. — The Spanish 
Cortes. — Senor Moro. — Surveys and Estimates. — Eegeneration and 
the Iron-Eoad. — Letter of Don Jose de Garay. — Decree of Santa 
Anna 99 


Nicaraguan Canal the most practicable.— Don Francisco Castillon 
and Prince Louis Napoleon Bonaparte. — Extracts from the French 
Emperor's Pamphlet. — Commanding Position of Constantinople. — 
Masaya the Centre of the New World. — Colonization Project. — 
Profits of the Undertaking. — All Interests consulted. — Course of 
the Proposed Canal. — Estimates . . . . . . 116 


Splendid Atlantic Harbour. — Description of David. — American 
Schemes of Annexation. — President Lincoln's Speech. — American 
Aversion to Negroes. — Coal-Pits versus Transit. — Poetry. — Sena- 
tor Pomeroy. — Scheme checked in the Bud 135 


Panama the Narrowest Part of the Isthmus. — Favourite Locality for 
a Canal. — M. Napoleon Garella. — His Project. — French Mission 
of Civilization. — San Bias Eoute. — Failure of Canal Schemes. — A 
Descendant of Montezuma. — Description of the Native Tribes. — 
An Historical Puzzle explained 147 


Gulf of Darien. — Eoute from Caledonia Bay to San Miguel. — Dr. 
Cullen. — Mr. Gisborne's Efforts. — Taken Prisoner by the Indians. 
— Succeeds in crossing to the Pacific. — Sufferings of Lieut. Strain 
and Party. — Eescue by Lieut. Forsythe, E.N. — Commander Pre- 
vost's Journey. — Valuable Precedent 154 




Canal by the River Atrato. — Passage of a Canoe from Ocean to 
Ocean. — Failure in London to form a Canal Company. — Mr. Kel- 
ley's Project. — Difference of Level between the Two Oceans. — 
Estimated Cost. — Letter from Alexander von Humboldt. — Apathy 
about Transit is dangerous to Commerce and Freedom. — Present 
French Efforts 183 


Panama Railway. — Preliminary Efforts. — The New-Granadian Char- 
ter. — Making the Railway. — The Company charges what it likes. 
— Concession of Land. — The Company's I O U. — The Half-way 
Bridge. — Cheap yet Efficient "Working of the Line. — Exorbitant 
Railway Fares. — Profits. — Panama and Aspinwall. — Colonel and 
Mrs. Totten .... . 192 


Nicaraguan Transit Line. — Bulwer- Clayton Treaty. — Commander 
Fead's Skilful Seamanship. — Schemes of the Accessory Company. 
— Bombardment of Grey town. — A Liberal Government. — The Com- 
pany forget to Pay. — The Battle for Transit. — American Efforts 
to hold the Route. — Correspondence. — Damming the Colorado. — 
San Juan del Sur 221 


Start up the Colorado. — Leaf's Island. — Laura Frances. — Delta of 
San Juan. — San Juanillo. — Serepiqui. — Colonel Cauty. — Wrecks 
on the River. — Castillo Viejo. — Fort San Carlos. — Lake Steamer. 
— San Miguelito. — Voyaging on the Lake of Nicaragua. — Specimen 
of Carib Work. — Granada ay de mi ! — Otter's Mule. — Interview 
with Mr. Wyke. — Managua 250 


Leave Managua on the Return Journey. — Lava Field of Masaya. — 
Aboriginal Fair. — Granada and Mons. Jules Thevenet. — Los Cocos. 
— More Ripping. — Cocito again. — Cass Irissari. — Beautiful Sce- 
nery. — Descend the River. — Emmons Plantation. — San Juan 
Branch of the Delta. — Arrival at Gorgon Villa, Greytown. — 
Astonish the Natives 285 




Proposed Hail way through Honduras. — Direction of Road. — 
Puerto Caballos. — Bay of Fonseca. — Estimates. — Honduras Inter- 
oceanic Railway Charter. — Failure to form a Company. — Colonel 
Stanton, R.E.— Von Tempsky.— Why is ' Mitla' worthless? . .313 


My own Project. — The Surveying Service. — Palmetto and Rocky 
Cays. — The Rama River. — Pacific Ports of Nicaragua. — Realejo. 
— San Juan del Sur. — Nature of the Country. — Probability of an 
Easy Gradient. — Immigration to Nicaragua. — Mosquito a Cotton- 
growing Country. — A Black Macadam ...... 322 


Mr. Griffin's Railway without Wooden Sleepers. — Present "Con- 
sumptive " System. — Economic Proposal. — Estimate of Nicaraguan 
Railroad. — Colonization. — Probable Receipts of the New Transit. 
— Monthly Mail to Australia. — New Zealand. — Great Barrier Is- 
land. — General Summary 353 


The Importance of Mosquito to England. — Our Foreign Policy. — A 
Brilliant Conception. — Protectorate of Mosquito. — The Spirit of 
Ministers. — Her Majesty's Promise. — Independence of Mosquito. 
— Badinage of the ' New York Herald.' — Christian Principles ! — 
Marked Displeasure of their Lordships. — Apathy of Government. 
— The Duke of Newcastle. — The Young Giant. — European Inter- 
national Highway. — Conclusion ..... . 377 




Extracts from a Treaty of Friendship, Commerce, and Navigation, 
between Her Majesty and the Republic of Nicaragua . . . 403 


Extracts from a Treaty between Her Majesty and the Republic of 
Nicaragua, relative to the Mosquito Indians, and to the Bights and 
Claims of British Subjects 409 


Extracts from a Treaty between Her Majesty and the Republic of 
Honduras, respecting the Bay Islands, the Mosquito Indians, and 
the Rights and Claims of British Subjects . . . . .412 


Extracts from an Official Report to the American Congress, on the 
Communications between the Atlantic and Pacific .... 415 


Extracts from Convention and Amended Charter of the American 
Atlantic and Pacific Ship Canal Company, 19th June, 1857, and ex- 
planatory articles respecting the same, 15th October, 1857 . . 428 

;rtps anfo Illustrations. 

— ^ — _ 



1. Central America to face 1 

2. G-reytown Harbour 67 

3. Delta of the River San Juan 254 

4. Port Realejo 333 

5. Gorgon Bay 340 

6. Great Barrier Harbour 373 

7. New Transit Route 394 


1. Preparing for the Iron Road to face Title 

2. San Juan del Sur, 1.859 45 

3. Gorgon Villa 96 

4. Port of Realejo, 1859 133 

5. Railway Bridge over the Chagres 201 

6. Eastern Suburb of Panama 219 

7. Plantation below Machuca Rapids 308 

8. Eastern End of Gorgon Bay 327 

9. Economic Railway 356 






The English seem to excel all other modern people in 
fitness for colonization ; and to their pioneering energy 
may be attributed the enormous increase of commerce, 
the rapid advance of civilization, and the spread of Chris- 
tianity; but it cannot be denied that in spite of this 
natural advantage the nation has been singularly un- 
happy in the management of its colonies, and profited 
little by former trials or dearly-bought experience. 

When sanctioning the formation of a colony, the 

mother-country should regard it as a primary object 

to ensure the permanent attachment of her offspring, 

by facilitating a certain, speedy, and safe exchange of 

If B ' 


ideas and commodities between herself and the inter- 
esting young stranger. Those ties which affection, a 
community of interest, or a love of gain, weave between 
a kindred people, are not the less strong because they 
are unseen ; and once established, furnish the best gua- 
rantee for permanent peace and lasting goodwill. 

A rapid, certain, and safe means of communication 
between the different nations of the earth has now 
become the great aim of all well-wishers of mankind, 
and our colonies should be the first to experience the 
benefit of this state of things ; unfortunately, the open- 
ing of new roads, and the improvement of the means 
of locomotion, has hitherto been viewed in this country 
in a narrow spirit. The introduction of stage-coaches, 
it was asserted, would be the sure forerunner of national 
degeneracy ; people would no longer choose to ride on 
horseback, but prefer to " loll at ease " in those effemi- 
nate contrivances, which were pronounced " one of the 
greatest evils that had happened to the kingdom." 

The introduction of railways met with equally ridi- 
culous objections; and one is almost at a loss to com- 
prehend how sane men could utter such absolute non- 
sense against that great blessing of the human race 
which the genius of a Stephenson was about to confer 
upon the nation. It may be argued that a great many 
who spoke against the introduction of railways could 
have had no clear conception of what they were talk- 
ing about; but no excuse of this sort can be advanced 
with regard to the late Thames embankment question. 
Everybody could understand that ; everybody had more 
or less suffered from delays, and been annoyed by the 


crowded state of our London streets, and the unhealthy 
condition of our great river, yet it was gravely ques- 
tioned whether the embankment would be an improve- 
ment or not ; and future generations will behold with 
astonishment the ridiculous aspect of this controversy. 

If such or similar shortsightedness prevails with re- 
gard to the means of locomotion at our very doors, no 
surprise can be felt at the utter blindness displayed 
regarding localities so distant that public opinion can- 
not be brought to bear upon them in any great force. 
A recent instance was afforded by the late transpor- 
tation of troops to Canada. Owing to the absence of a 
direct road, which ought to have been constructed years 
ago, we were compelled to send our soldiers by a round- 
about way, and at an outlay which almost equalled the 
cost the construction of a good railway would have 

The overland route to India was entirely established 
by an individual, and in the teeth of direct opposition ; 
the Government of the day openly discountenancing 
the scheme, and the India Board distinctly stating that 
they required " no steam to India " at all ; indeed, that 
struggle for a transit is a stranger tale than fiction. 
Fortunately for us, Lieutenant Waghorn, R.N., per- 
severed in his great undertaking. His route was suc- 
cessfully opened, its value distinctly proved, — in no 
case more than in the great Indian mutiny, — and a new 
source of wealth and happiness opened to our nation. 
But what was the reward of him who sacrificed all he 
possessed, who spent his entire property, devoted his 
health, ay, life itself, in order to ensure the success of 

B 2 


so noble a cause ] He did not receive anything, either 
for himself or his family ! 

The vast benefits which resulted from opening a 
short route to the British possessions in the East, by 
way of Suez, naturally drew attention to the great 
Isthmus of the New World, Panama (the high-road to 
a great portion of our wealth), in the hope of obtain- 
ing similar benefits for English colonies and interests 
in that direction. But it was not the good fortune 
of Great Britain to possess another Waghorn in this 
Western field, and all the efforts made to obtain a foot- 
ing in Central America signally failed. The truth is, 
that each and every attempt was frustrated by the 
United States, ever anxious to prevent any nation but 
itself from enjoying the commerce of the New World, 
to which, according to the Monroe doctrine, it has the 
sole and exclusive right. In this instance the Ame- 
ricans spared no pains to secure for themselves the 
monopoly of the transit over the Isthmus of their con- 
tinent, and they have succeeded perfectly. 

With the whole field to themselves, our transatlantic 
cousins lost no time in opening their route ; a railroad 
was built which will ever be a monument of skill and 
enterprise, and the value of which has far surpassed 
every calculation. Its political importance to the United 
States is immense; by means of it the real control of 
the Pacific commerce falls into the hands of our rivals ; 
and our policy must of necessity be cramped when we 
reflect that our unscrupulous offspring have the power, 
in the event of war, to inflict disaster upon our squadron, 
menace our possessions, cut up our trade, or destroy our 


cruisers in detail, before we could even inform our coun- 
trymen that hostilities had broken out. 

An opportunity occurred about the time the transit 
vid Panama was secured in favour of the United States, 
to open a new route, partly through Mosquito and partly 
through Nicaragua, starting from Greytown ; but again, 
although the Atlantic port was under our protectorate, 
and everything in our favour, we were beaten out of 
the field by our ubiquitous rivals, who opened a steam- 
boat communication by the river San Juan and across 
Lake Nicaragua, while we were squabbling about the 
Mosquito question. Once more an opening presented 
itself during Walker's sojourn in the country; but the 
same shortsighted policy, the same weak submission to 
transatlantic intimidation, prevailed ; and not content 
with overlooking the chance thus offered, we actually 
went out of our way to destroy it. 

If the Panama route were a great highway of nations 
open to the whole world, there would be no cause for 
disquiet or distrust on the part of England ; but it can- 
not be repeated too often that it is the only transit, 
and belongs exclusively to the United States. It is 
true that the soil is the property of New Granada, and 
that the Americans simply hold a lease of it ; but that 
wonderful people make no secret of their intention 
to convert their leasehold into a freehold, malgre the 
rightful owners. That this is not mere wordy declama- 
tion has been evidenced on more than one occasion ; 
and, doubtless, long ago the matter would have been 
settled in this wise, had not all parties in the United 
States been fully occupied with the internal troubles of 


their own country. An unmistakable exposition of the 
popular determination in this matter has very lately 
been given by the seizure of Confederates upon neutral 
ground, and their forcible conveyance as prisoners across 
the Panama Railway, in direct violation of the neutrality 
of New Granada ; remonstrance and protest only elicit- 
ing the startling reply, that the line was held to be the 
property of the United States. 

The time has arrived when the eyes of the public 
ought to be opened to the true aspect of affairs in 
Central America. Sooner or later, nothing but disaster 
will be the result of tamely submitting to this close 
monopoly of the transit. We are permitted to tra- 
verse the line only on sufferance ; and by-and-by, when 
accustomed to its use, and unable to carry on our 
Pacific trade without such a speedy means of commu- 
nication, then, without notice, we shall find the gate 
closed against us, and incalculable injury inflicted upon 
our commerce and prestige. This was more than sha- 
dowed forth in the speech of our Colonial Secretary 
(the Duke of Newcastle) from his place in the House of 
Lords last session (1862), when he said, " A short time 
back, when there was an apprehension of hostilities with 
the United States, (the ' Trent ' affair,) he was unable 
to communicate with the Governor of British Columbia 
for the space of six weeks, there being the possible 
chance of any dispatches sent via Panama falling into 
hostile hands." Time was when a British Minister 
would not have dared to make such an admission of 
governmental weakness and pusillanimity ; but in the 
present day, after the meekness with which repeated 


insults have been borne when coming from the other 
side of the Atlantic, one is not surprised at anything ; 
and no doubt even the ' Trent' outrage would have been 
quietly put up with if it had not come within the scope 
of public observation. The energetic measures taken on 
that occasion no more emanated from the Government 
of the day than did the raising of the Volunteer Rifle 
force, or any other really useful project. 

The United States, by the untiring energy, skill, per- 
severance, and patriotism of its citizens, and the foster- 
ing care and foresight of its government, had passed 
the mother-country in the commercial race, when the 
present deplorable struggle commenced ; that event 
has, of course, put a decisive stop to all progress ; never- 
theless, when peace is restored, our rivals will possess 
an immense vantage-ground in the Panama Railway; 
and while it continues the only gate to the Pacific, of 
which they hold the keys, they must be the winners. 
The English will be blind indeed if they throw away 
the chance now offered. There are other parts of Cen- 
tral America which present even greater facilities for 
a transit than Panama ; and it is in the power of Eng- 
land to open more than one new route for herself exclu- 
sively if she chooses ; but, if she is wise, she will make 
a highway free to all nations. 

Some explanation of my connection with the sub- 
ject of transit routes may be due to my readers. Long 
practical acquaintance with the efforts to discover 
the North-West Passage first drew my attention to 
the matter, and impressed me with the importance of 
shortening the road between the scenes of my country- 


men's commercial enterprise and the mother-country. 
Strongly imbued with this feeling, an invitation to ac- 
company the late Mr. Robert Stephenson, M.P., to the 
Isthmus of Suez, was eagerly accepted, and the oppor- 
tunity of studying the question of transit with one of 
the ablest engineers of the day thus afforded. After- 
wards I found myself, in the course of service, stationed 
as senior naval officer on the Atlantic side of the great 
American Isthmus, the entire Pacific side of which 
(with Panama as head-quarters) I had formerly been 
made familiar with by constant employment in sur- 
veying duties. At Greytown I found the question of 
transit of absorbing interest to the inhabitants; 
without commerce their town sinks to the level of a 
wretched swampy village, but with it becomes the en- 
trepot of a very extensive trade. It is this fact which 
has caused it to be coveted by Nicaragua, and made the 
United States strain every nerve to deprive us of foot- 
ing at a place so important, not only in a commercial 
but in a strategical point of view. Neither the Ameri- 
cans nor the Nicaraguans ever cared one straw whether 
or not England exercised a protectorate over Mosquito ; 
but the possession of the port of Greytown has ever 
been the real bone of contention in the Mosquito 
question ; and that unseemly squabble would never have 
taken place had not this harbour, so valuable for 
transit purposes, been included in the Mosquito ter- 

Thrown in the very midst of this most important and 
congenial discussion, it is but natural that I should have 
manifested the warmest interest in the subject, and very 


soon discovered that the question affected British inter- 
ests much more nearly than is suspected by the public 
at home. England has never had her attention properly 
aroused to the importance of possessing a ready means 
of access to her possessions and commerce in the Pa- 
cific. The Government has tabooed the subject by every 
means in its power, frightened, no doubt, by the Yankee 
scarecrow which is for ever dangling before its eyes, 
and which, to its vision, is always on the point of as- 
suming vitality. 

Whilst simply crossing the ocean was the only means 
of transit, we were able to hold our own against all 
comers ; but now that the genius of a Stephenson and a 
Waghorn has curtailed both time and distance, it is a 
widely different affair : those men have effected a revo- 
lution, and we must abide by the work of their hands. 
A giant innovation has taken place, and we must stand 
to it for better or for worse ; for better if we keep pace 
with it, for worse if we lag behind. Already the glaring 
error of allowing the United States to monopolize and 
control the only avenue of approach to the Pacific is 
apparent ; and it is to be hoped, now that the govern- 
mental apprehensions have been quieted by American 
<&union, that a vigorous effort will be made to open 
a new and independent route. 

The territory of New Granada being closed against 
any rival to the Panama Railway by the terms of its 
contract,* which grants to the citizens of the United 
States the exclusive privilege of transit, it follows that 
we must look elsewhere for the means of crossing expe- 

* See chapter on Panama. 


ditiously from ocean to ocean. Nicaragua offers the 
best field for such an undertaking ; but here again we 
have been out-generaled, and the route through that 
republic would also have been completely in the hands 
of Americans, had not, fortunately for us, causes of both 
a political and physical nature combined against them. 
Their transit was eminently successful, in spite of its 
various transshipments, until Colonel W. Walker was 
driven to interfere with it, with destructive effect both 
to himself and the undertaking. During the conflict 
which ensued, the river was so seriously impeded by 
artificial obstacles, as also the port of Greytown, that 
the navigation soon became barred against even the 
smallest vessels. 

In the first place, I turned my attention to the river, 
with a view to ascertain if it could again be used for 
traffic, but my surveys and explorations failed to give 
any hope of such a consummation. The favourite 
project on the spot was to dam the Colorado, and by 
thus forcing all the stream into the San Juan branch, 
to cause the descent of so strong a current and large a 
volume of water as to scour out and deepen the channel 
and harbour. This, no doubt, might be done ; but it 
will be as well to say nothing of the time and cost. 
In short, there is but little question that the days of 
Greytown are drawing to a close ; its once fine port, in 
which a number of heavy ships could have been 
anchored with ease and convenience, will now admit 
only the smallest vessels, as is proved by the last survey 
(April, 1860), when only eleven feet could be found on 
the bar ; and the sand-spit which forms the seaward face 


of the port had extended itself, and therefore narrowed 
the entrance, during the preceding fifteen months, no 
less than two hundred yards. Greytown, like its neigh- 
bours, Blewfields, Pearl Cay, and Cape Gracias, must 
fulfil its destiny. Each of those places once boasted a 
splendid harbour, but what are they now'? Lagoons 
— mere shallow sheets of water : and to this Grey- 
town must shortly come, and therefore its commercial 
and strategical importance will soon belong to the 

The certainty that Greytown was doomed, and with 
it any hope of transit in that quarter, prompted me to 
examine the nature of the coast more minutely than had 
hitherto been attempted, and thus the deep bay formed 
by the projection of Monkey Point became known. 
This bay, which I have designated Gorgon Bay, after 
H.M.S. Gorgon, then under my command, is about 
thirty miles to the northward of Greytown ; it proved 
to be capacious, free from shoals, easily entered by 
day or night, well sheltered from the Northers, and in 
every respect admirably adapted for the Atlantic ter- 
minus of a transit route. The distance to the Lake 
Nicaragua did not much exceed sixty miles, with indi- 
cation of an easy gradient the whole way ; while from 
the Lake terminus to the Pacific the road and the 
steamers left by the " Accessory Transit Company " 
could be at once made available. 

The absolute necessity for an alternative route in the 
interests of British commerce had so impressed itself 
upon my mind, that I felt nothing could have been 
more opportune than the bringing to light of such a 


port as that just described ; and now came the ques- 
tion — how to secure it 1 In this, not so many obsta- 
cles were experienced as I had been led to suppose. 
I found the King of Mosquito quite alive to the many 
advantages that would accrue to his people from open- 
ing a transit through his territories, and consequently 
he was quite prepared to grant a liberal concession for 
a railway, and to allow me whatever land I required. 
No time, therefore, was lost in effecting the purchase 
of the entire bay, from Monkey Point to Little Monkey 
Point, including the adjacent islands, and in obtain- 
ing his signature to a concession of land for transit 

Having taken the above step, the next thing to be 
done was to advise our minister, Mr. Wyke, of the 
altered aspect of affairs on the coast of Mosquito, and 
of the rapid deterioration of Grey town Harbour ; and 
this seemed to me the more important, as rumours had 
reached me that, as usual, Greytown was the stumbling- 
block in the way of his negotiating a treaty with Nica- 
ragua. For various reasons, it was improbable that a 
dispatch would ever reach its destination ; besides, time 
was very precious ; and therefore, taking all things into 
consideration, I deemed it best to pay a visit to Mr. Wyke 
myself. I cannot say that I met with the least encou- 
ragement from that gentleman, and afterwards found, by 
a comparison of dates, that just before my arrival he had 
concluded a treaty, giving up everything — protectorate 
of Mosquito, boundary, etc. ; in short, each and every 
point which we had maintained and held long before 
the United States became a nation. There was pro- 


bably not much difficulty in effecting such a treaty. I 
cannot, however, help saying that Mr. Wyke struck me 
as being ashamed of the work upon which he was em- 
ployed ; and a perusal of the treaties made by him will, 
in my opinion, show that at least there would have 
been some reason in being so. I do not, however, 
saddle Mr. Wyke* with the entire blame, as it is not 
improbable that he acted under direct orders from a 
Liberal Government, urged by that dread of the Yan- 
kees which has been the stumbling-block of their party 
for the last twenty years. 

A lengthy official correspondence ensued touching 
the action I had taken, the upshot of which was that 
my Lords of the Admiralty, instructed by Earl Russell, 
visited me with a reprimand for having purchased the 
land ; but, as I continued in my command for a consider- 
able period afterwards, — although, to be consistent with 
the terms of the reprimand, this ought not to have been 
the case, — I contented myself with settling, at least to 
my own satisfaction, that the American scarecrow was 
probably again dangling in the eyes of the authorities, 
and that they had prepared themselves with a written 
disclaimer in case their old enemy should really assume 
vitality, and demand to know what right England had to 
look after her own interests, or to presume to originate 
a transit intended to be independent of their monopoly 
at Panama. 

Before proceeding further, I would entreat all whom 
it may concern, namely, every intelligent Englishman, 
to interest himself that this important subject shall 

* Since knighted for his services — Sir Charles Lennox "Wyke, C.B. 


not be burked, and England once more be deprived of 
a means of independent transit, by which alone her 
young colonies of Vancouver Island and British Colum- 
bia can be properly governed, and her commercial in- 
terests in the broad Pacific be fostered and developed. 




In defining the boundaries of Central America, I shall 
not restrict myself to the narrowest part, commonly 
called the Isthmus of Panama, but include the entire 
country, from the first narrowing of the land of North 
America at the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, between the 
16th and 18th parallel of north latitude, and 94th me- 
ridian of west longitude, to its expansion into South 
America at Darien in the 7th parallel of north latitude 
and 77th west meridian. In this definition I have been 
guided, not by political divisions, but by what appear to 
be the strict geographical limits of the centre of the 
New World. Central America, then, lies between the 7th 
and 18th parallels of north latitude, and the 77th and 
94th of west longitude ; its least breadth from sea to 
sea is 27 miles, at lat. 9° N., long. 79° W. The extent 
of its coast-line, counting all the sinuosities, is about 3000 
miles, its length from end to end about 1350 miles, its 
direction north-west and south-east, and its area about 


300,000 square miles, or about the size of Great Britain 
and France put together. 

It is hardly possible to conceive anything more widely 
different than the nature of the connecting links join- 
ing together the continents of the Old and New Worlds. 
In the former we have a broad, flat, low expanse of 
parched and arid country, rather more than seventy miles 
across, a complete desert; in the latter, a mountainous 
surface and very irregular coast-line extending over many 
hundreds of miles, teeming with animal and vegetable 
life, and only, at its narrowest part, about half the width 
of the Old World isthmus. There is another striking 
dissimilarity, — the one possessing the earliest records of 
the human race in readable hieroglyphics, and crowded 
with historical associations of the deepest interest to 
mankind, whilst the other is a comparatively modern 
addition to the history of the world, with writings still 
an enigma to science. 

There are so many well-written accounts of Central 
America, from its conquest and partial occupation 
(the first European settlement was formed by Co- 
lumbus, in 1502) until the final expulsion of the Spa- 
niards, between the years 1820 and 1823, that it seems 
superfluous to enter upon its earlier history ; and I 
shall therefore simply confine myself to a brief no- 
tice of the various states and dependencies, and only 
enlarge on Nicaragua and the Mosquito territory, so 
long a cause of contention between this country and the 
United States, because on that portion of the Isthmus 
is centred the chief interest ; but should any one wish 
to go more deeply into the subject, a complete list of 


books has been appended, from which may be obtained a 
detailed account of all that is known of this interesting 
part of the world. 

Within the limits I have denned as the natural boun- 
daries of the centre of the New World are included 
two provinces of New Granada (Panama and Veraguas, 
commonly called the Isthmus of Panama), two of Me- 
xico (Yucatan and Chiapas), an English colony (Belize, 
or British Honduras), five republics (Costarica, San Sal- 
vador, Honduras and the Bay Islands, Guatemala, and 
Nicaragua), and the Indian kingdom of Mosquito. The 
five republics number altogether forty-five districts, each 
with a capital, and 253 towns and villages, exclusive of 
capitals. Costarica has eight districts, San Salvador four, 
Honduras twelve, Guatemala thirteen, and Nicaragua 
eight, making in all forty-five. 


The Isthmus of Panama lies between the 4th and 
10th parallels of north latitude, and the 77th and 83rd 
of west longitude ; it belongs politically to the Kepub- 
lic of New Granada, and comprises the provinces of 
Panama and Veraguas, and the territories of Darien and 
Bocas del Toro. Its least breadth, from sea to sea, is 
twenty-seven miles, and its configuration is that of a 
bow, the coast of the Caribbean Sea forming the con- 
vex line, that of the South Sea the concave. Bounded 
on the north and north-east by the Atlantic, on the 
south and south-west by the Pacific Ocean, on the east 



by the rivers Atrato and San Juan, and on the west by 
the republic of Costarica, the population amounts to 
129,000 ; and it presents, including the adjacent islands, 
a surface of 34,000 square miles, an extent of territory 
nearly equal to that of Portugal. 

In the province of Panama is situated the celebrated 
Atlantic port of Portobello, lat. 9° 34' N., long. 79° 44' W. 
The harbour of the same name was discovered on the 
2nd November, 1502, by Columbus, but the town was 
not commenced until the reign of Philip II. Soon 
after its foundation it became of importance, by being 
made the port through which all the trade between 
Spain and Western America was carried on, and by the 
great annual fair held there. On account of these 
advantages, Portobello was looked upon with envy by 
other nations, and suffered frequent attacks; the first 
time by Francis Drake, in 1595, during the wars between 
Philip II. of Spain and Elizabeth of England. It was 
sacked twice by the buccaneers, in 1624 and 1673 ; 
and again, when in the reign of George II. war broke 
out between Great Britain and Spain, Portobello was 
taken, and nearly reduced to ashes, by Admiral Vernon, 
on the 22nd of November, 1739. Nine years later, the 
Spanish galleon and the great fair were abolished, when 
Portobello, which had always been dreaded on account 
of its climate, was almost deserted; it fell, never to 
rise again, for after the war of independence the traffic 
was conducted by way of Chagres, which, though not 
a regular harbour, has several advantages over Porto- 
bello. The town of Chagres is, like Portobello, one of 
the most miserable and unhealthy in the country; it 


lies at the mouth of the river of the same name, in 
lat. 9° 18' 6" N., long. 79° 59' 2" W., and is guarded by 
the castle of San Lorenzo, a dark-looking fortification. 
This castle is situated on a high rock at the entrance of 
the river, and was destroyed in 1671 by command of 
Henry Morgan, but a few years after was rebuilt by the 
Spaniards. Chagres contains about one thousand in- 
habitants, nearly all of whom are negroes or people of 
a mixed origin. Aspinwall, the great entrepot of the 
Isthmus, will be mentioned below. 

Yucatan and Chiapas. — In 1506 Juan Dias de Solis 
and Vincent Janez Pinzon discovered Yucatan, but it 
was not explored until 1517. Like the rest of the con- 
tinent, the country was overrun by the Spaniards, but 
not without harder fighting than they met anywhere 
else. It was a separate Captain-Generalcy until the 
revolution, when it joined the Mexican Confederation; 
since then, in common with other Spanish-American 
States, it has been filled with anarchy and confusion, 
and at present the country is almost in the hands of 
the Indians. The capital is Merida, the population 
of which is about 20,000. This province was in a for- 
ward state of civilization when discovered, as is attested 
by the magnificent ruins so ably described by Mr. John 
L. Stephens. The area of Yucatan is about 53,000 
square miles, and the population, by rough calculation, 
amounts to 600,000. Our knowledge of this part of 
America is still imperfect. Yucatan is a peninsula, 120 
miles from Cuba ; it lies between lat. 18° and 21° N. and 

c 2 


long. 87° and 91° W., having north and west the Gulf of 
Mexico, east the Caribbean Sea, and landward Belize, 
Guatemala, and Chiapas. The chief port is Campeachy, 
but it does not deserve the name of harbour. Chiapas 
does not approach Yucatan in size and population, does 
not exceed 39,000 square miles, and 200,000 souls is 
probably the extent of the population. 


Belize, or British Honduras, owes its settlement to the 
buccaneers, who maintained a footing in spite of all the 
efforts of the Spaniards to dislodge them. The district 
has been in the possession of England for more than 
200 years, and comprises a territory of about 160 miles 
in length by about 60 at its broadest part, equal to an 
area of 9600 square miles. The population is estimated 
to exceed 25,000, of whom the greater portion are co- 
Loured. The town of Belize forms a remarkable con- 
trast to those of the neighbouring states: while the 
latter seem to be gradually decaying, the former strides 
forward every year, and bids fair to become shortly a 
most thriving settlement. Mahogany is the chief article 
of export: about 20,000 tons per annum are shipped, 
requiring 16,000 trees : a single tree has been sold for 
£1800. Plantations of considerable extent are now 
being cleared, and probably cotton and sugar will be- 
fore long be largely exported. Belize is governed by 
a Superintendent appointed by the Home Government ; 
it is under the diocese of Jamaica. There are several 
good schools, besides a number chiefly conducted on 







Fall of Bain. 

March . 
May . . 
June . . 
July . . 
August . 

82° Fahr. 











66° Fahr. 




Average mean temperature for the year, 79° Fahr. 

2*7 inches. 

4-2 „ 











46*9 inches. 


Of all the states of Central America, Costarica is the 
most prosperous: its exports at present reach a large 
amount, viz. 1,000,000 dollars; other exports, 350,000 
dollars; total, 1,350,000 dollars. The late ruling Pre- 
sident has done much to develope its resources, but per- 
haps the greatest benefit he conferred was by keeping, 
for many years, a firm hold on the presidential chair, 
thus avoiding the calamities usually attendant upon 
elections in these countries. He was in reality dic- 
tator, and this is probably the secret of the national 
prosperity. It is really astonishing what progress these 
countries make, if only allowed a few years' peace and 
quiet. Under firm and determined rule their growth is 
quite tropical ; but directly political freedom is allowed, 
revolution follows revolution, and the most frightful 
excesses lay waste the country. 


The Roman Catholic religion is declared by law to 
be the religion of the country ; the constitution guaran- 
tees it the protection of the Government, while it tole- 
rates every other persuasion. By a concordat with Rome, 
dated October 1852, tithes were abolished, and 10,000 
dollars per annum settled on the diocese. Costarica 
was ecclesiastically subordinate to the bishopric of Nica- 
ragua until 1850, when it was erected into a separate dio- 
cese. There are forty-five churches and sixty-one priests. 

San Jose is the capital, and 4500 feet above the level 
of the sea ; the houses are whitewashed, with red-tiled 
roofs, only one story high, and built of adobes, or sun- 
dried bricks. The city has a clean and cheerful look ; 
it was commenced about 1775, and is therefore compa- 
ratively modern. 

" The natives of Costarica are extremely jealous of 
foreign influence, and though willing to be benefited 
by foreign capital, they are desirous of reaping this 
benefit in a most selfish manner, by absorbing all the 
wealth which such capital will create. This feeling 
induced them, when they formed a company for the 
building of a road from the capital to the Serapiqui 
river, to exclude all foreigners from participation therein, 
by enacting that none but a native could be a stock- 
holder. In this shortsighted policy they have per- 
sisted ever since, and will persevere, until they have 
learnt, to their irretrievable cost, that without foreign 
aid they are unable to do anything. The Costaricans 
appear fated to do the reverse of what civilized nations 
have done : they exclude foreigners from their public 
works, such as roads, etc., while they allow them to 


hold real estate. I am convinced that this contradiction 
in their acts proceeds, in a great measure, from the exclu- 
siveness of their egotism, rather than from any want of 
knowledge of their true interests. 1 '* 

Their jealousy of foreigners was exemplified by their 
declaration of war against the filibusters in Nicaragua, 
and the decree that all taken with arms in their hands 
should be shot. The result of their jealousy and med- 
dling was the loss of more than 2000 of their best men, a 
large increase of debt and misery, with nothing to show 
for it but a glass case, erected at San Jose, containing 
the national colours and the following inscriptions : — 

1 ' On the 15th July, 1857, the national flag which floated above 
the walls of Fort Castillo during the siege, together with the 
names of the superior officers who defended it so brilliantly, 
were deposited in this urn, by order of his Excellency the Pre- 
sident of the Eepublic, Don Jose Rafael Mora. Eternal honour 
to the heroes who defended the Castle of San Juan." 

" On the 1 5th February, 1 857, 400 filibusters, under the com- 
mand of the so-called Colonel Titus, attacked the Castle of San 
Carlos, which was in a dilapidated state, and garrisoned only 
by thirty-seven men. But animated by the brave Colonel, Don 
George F. Cauty, and the worthy comandante of the fort, 
Lieutenant- Colonel Faustine Montes de Orca, the little garrison 
heroically resisted the enemy, until the 19th of the same month, 
on which day seventy- seven riflemen, under the command of 
Captain Jesus Alvarado and Don Joaquin Ortiz, who had been 
sent to the relief of the fort by the General-in-Chief, Don Jose 
Joaquin Mora, fell upon the filibusters with so much bravery, 
that they dispersed them in an instant, compelling them to throw 
away their clothes so that they might fly with greater ease. 
This brilliant feat of arms, planned so admirably by our General, 
decided the happy issue of the holy war which was sustained 
by the republics of Central America against their invaders." 

* Letters from the British Consul. 


The boundary-line between Costarica and Nicaragua 
is still in dispute. The old boundary, by charter of 1574, 
commenced at the mouth of the river San Juan, and ex- 
tended up that stream within fifteen leagues of the lake, 
whence a line was drawn due west to the head waters 
of the Rio Salto, and down that stream to the Pacific. To 
the north and west of that boundary lies the district of 
Guanacaste, which was annexed to Costarica after the in- 
dependence, by the freewill of the inhabitants in 1824, 
and their action was approved by the Federal Congress 
of Central America in 1825. Guanacaste has since then 
been in actual possession of Costarica, and its north- 
ern boundaries would therefore be those of Costarica, 
viz. the remaining fifteen leagues of the Eio San Juan, 
and now the entire length of that stream, thence along 
the borders of the lake to the Rio Sapoa, and from the 
source of that stream to the beautiful harbour of Sa- 
linas Bay, on the Pacific. The whole republic lies be- 
tween 8° 30' and 10° 40' K, and 82° and 85° W., and 
comprises about 25,000 square miles, with a population 
of about 135,000 inhabitants. There are two or three 
harbours, but Punta Arenas, on the Pacific, is the chief 
port of entry. 


San Salvador is the smallest of the five states, being 
165 miles in length, by 69 in average breadth, and con- 
taining about 11,385 square miles of territory; it enjoys 
a beautiful climate and fertile soil, and only requires a 
fostering care to become the garden of the Pacific. Its 
population is relatively the largest in Central America, 


and numbers 290,000. It has only one seaport worthy 
the name, and that is La Union, in the Gulf of Fonseca. 
It is well watered, having no less than twenty-two rivers, 
varying from 260 to 30 miles in length, and seventeen 
lakes. The country is eminently plutonic, an entire chain 
of volcanos extending along the Pacific coast-line ; many 
of the lakes are merely extinct craters filled with water, 
which overflowing have made beds for themselves and 
become rivers: an example is afforded by the stream 
from the Lake Guija, which for more than two leagues 
has worn for itself a channel in the lava, and so rapidly 
has this process been going on that in some places 
the banks have attained an elevation of from fifty to 
sixty feet. In the same manner the Lake of Ilopango 
has forced for itself a channel through exceedingly high 
precipitous land, to unite with the deep-flowing river 
of Giboa. 

It is impossible to say when these operations of nature 
took place, certainly a long period before the conquest 
of America, nor is it probable the natives ever knew 
anything certain about it ; if they had any tradition in 
relation thereto, it has been lost amid the bustle of 
subsequent immigration and political events. 

The current tradition of to-day is, that on the site of 
the Lake of Guija there existed a populous city, which 
was destroyed similarly to Sodom and Gomorrah of the 
Old World. There is nothing impossible in the story, 
seeing that we still find many flourishing cities at the 
base of volcanos ; but that the silver vases, candle- 
sticks, etc. etc., said to have been found in the lake, have 
come from the lost city, is more than doubtful. It is 


more probable that, in the political tempests which have 
passed over these countries, some of the inhabitants may 
have committed their treasures for greater security to the 
waters of the lake, and may afterwards have perished 
without divulging the secret, or have been unable to find 
the deposit, until, long after, accident or avarice may have 
brought to light the hidden treasures. 

San Salvador lies between the parallels 13° and 14° 10' 
north, and the meridians 87° and 90° west. It is bounded 
on the south and west by the Gulf of Fonseca and the 
Pacific, and on the north and east by Guatemala and 
Honduras, a formidable range of mountains constituting 
the inland barrier. The topography of the country is 
remarkable : there are two steppes, — that on the coast, 
about fifteen miles in breadth ; and then again, at an ele- 
vation of about 2000 feet, the second steppe, more than 
twice as broad, well watered, and fertile beyond de- 
scription ; the far interior consists of high broken land. 
The capital of the Eepublic is named after the state, or 
rather the state after the capital ; it was founded in 1528 
by George Alvarado, brother of the great conqueror. Its 
elevation is upwards of 2000 feet above the sea. In 
April, 1854, it was destroyed by a violent earthquake, 
after having survived several shocks, — twice in the six- 
teenth century, the same in the next, again in 1728, and 
lastly in 1839. There appears to be more political con- 
tentment and stability in San Salvador than in any 
other part of Central America, without exception; un- 
fortunately its geographical position and want of ports 
is the great drawback to its progress. 



Columbus made his first landing on the continent 
of America in Honduras. In 1502 he discovered Gua- 
naja, named by him the " Isle of Pines ; " thence sailed 
towards the mainland, and on the 14th of August 
stepped ashore on the point now called Cabo de Hon- 
duras, close to the present town of Truxillo, which 
was founded by Fernando Cortez a few years after 
the death of the great navigator. Honduras comprises 
an area of nearly 40,000 square miles ; it has a coast- 
line of about 400 miles on the Caribbean Sea and about 
60 miles on the Pacific ; all of the latter is included 
in the Gulf of Fonseca. There are several islands, both 
on the Atlantic and Pacific, which pertain to this state ; 
it also possesses more than one good harbour, and it is 
second to none in its natural wealth. The topography 
is similar to that of the other states. The population 
amounts to 350,000, containing a larger proportion 
of whites than any of the other states ; the black ele- 
ment also is large, owing to the establishment in the 
country of the Caribs. These people constitute all that 
remains of the original inhabitants of St. Vincent. They 
gave their English masters so much trouble, that in 1796 
they were deported, to the number of nearly 6000, to 
Eoatan, in the Bay of Honduras ; since that period they 
have steadily increased, and now form by far the most 
hardworking and industrious part of the population of 
Honduras. They are mostly mahogany cutters, and the 
amount of work they perform is marvellous; they are 
tall, fine-looking men, powerful, and by their provident 


habits are generally well off; most of them speak both 
Spanish and English. They are said to be the best wood- 
men in the world. 

The Bay Islands, situated on the Atlantic, within sight 
of the Republic of Honduras, lately ceded to that state, 
are Bonacca, Roatan, Utilla, and a number of smaller 
islands and coral Cays. The group was almost depo- 
pulated by the early conquerors, who carried the abo- 
rigines as slaves to Cuba. At the commencement of the 
seventeenth century the buccaneers made such constant 
forays upon the remaining inhabitants, and the harbours 
afforded such excellent shelter for their ships, that the 
Spaniards determined to abandon the settlements ; and 
accordingly all the people were transported in 1642 to 
Truxillo. The buccaneers lost no time in taking pos- 
session, and speedily fortified themselves; but in 1650, 
after some hard fighting, they were expelled. The Spa- 
niards not occupying the islands, they continued a 
desert waste until 1742, when the English took posses- 
sion. During the next hundred years the group appears 
to have witnessed several changes, but finally by occu- 
pation came under English rule. The extreme fertility 
of the soil and its commanding geographical position 
attracted many settlers, who, numbering some thousands, 
declared their wish to be under English government. 
In 1852 they were formally annexed to Belize, and 
called the Colony of the Bay Islands, and from this 
period appear to have increased considerably in popula- 
tion and prosperity ; but unfortunately for the settlers, 
the Government of the United States chose to object to 
the establishment of any colony on or near the Ame- 


rican continent, save and except such as emanated from 
themselves. Accordingly the English government, after a 
weak and puerile defence of their policy, relinquished 
the point, and by treaty, dated November, 1859, totally 
abandoned the Bay Island colony to Honduras, thereby 
causing the ruin of many British subjects, and, what was 
of scarcely less importance, lowering the prestige of our 
nation in the eyes of the whole world, by taking up the 
matter with one hand and laying it down with the 
other. No one can say to what lengths the bullying 
propensities of the Yankees would have been carried, 
and how long our Liberal Government w T ould have 
borne the constant humiliations to which they were sub- 
jected, had not an end been put to the system by the 
division in the United States, which, for the present at 
all events, gives the people of that country quite enough 
to do to mind their own affairs. In the Appendix will 
be found the treaty with Honduras, by which this weak 
and disgraceful abandonment of fellow-countrymen in a 
distant part of the world was consummated. 

Guatemala is the largest state, and is famous for the 
beauty of its scenery. Its great drawback is want of sea- 
ports and the absence of roads ; it will therefore pro- 
bably remain undisturbed for many years, and even then 
civilization will most likely find its way into the country 
from the northern side, via Mexico, as that is by far the 
most accessible. The area of Guatemala is about 60,000 
square miles, and the population numbers about 800,000, 
very few of whom are whites; two-thirds at least are 


Indians. There is a great paucity of negroes throughout 
this state. 

Guatemala, at the time of the Spanish conquest, was 
further advanced in civilization than any other part of 
Central America ; it is said that in those days the natives 
possessed a written language, which is more than was 
the case either with the Aztecs or the Incas. 

It is difficult to find a name for the form of govern- 
ment ; it is totally unlike that of the other states ; the 
present ruler is called Captain-General and President 
for Life, and has even the power of naming his suc- 
cessor. He is a pure Indian, and has so much influence 
with the Indian tribes and lower orders that every at- 
tempt to unseat or destroy him has proved a failure ; 
under his regime bigotry and intolerance in religious mat- 
ters have been rampant. The Jesuits, expelled from the 
liberal states, here flourish in rank luxuriance, and have 
set their seal on the people, so that it is not difficult 
to foresee the abject condition to which all classes will 
be reduced if this state of affairs continues. Under 
such a government commerce and industry languish, and 
accordingly, by the last accounts, the imports and ex- 
ports had dwindled down to a very low figure. Guate- 
mala is bounded on the north by the Mexican states of 
Chiapas and Yucatan, but the boundary-line has ever 
been in dispute, and there is no prospect of its settle- 
ment. On the south and west the Pacific washes its 
shores, and the Republic of San Salvador adjoins on the 
south-east; on the east and north-east, Honduras, the 
Atlantic, and Belize form the boundary line. The ports 
on the Atlantic are Izabal, on the Gulf of Dulce, lat. 


15° 24' N., long. 89° 9' W., which gulf is in fact a large 
body of fresh water. — a lake to which access is obtained 
by ascending its outlet, the Rio Dulce, having only six 
feet on the bar, — and San Tomas, lat. 15° 45' N., long. 
88° 40' W., at the head of the Bay of Amatique, its 
length is about four miles, breadth two miles, easy of ac- 
cess at all times ; the greatest depth is five fathoms, gra- 
dually shoaling towards the shore ; the entrance is open 
to the north. On the Pacific Guatemala does not pos- 
sess any ports, the two shipping-places, Istapa and San 
Jose, being simply bad and exposed roadsteads ; the 
former was used by Alvarado to build the vessels em- 
ployed in the conquest of Peru. 

New Guatemala* is the present capital of the state ; it 
is the third of the name, and was founded in 1776. The 
first was founded by Alvarado ; its ruins are known as 
Ciudad Vieja ; it was destroyed in 1541. The second was 
destroyed, or nearly so, in 1773; it is called Antigua 
Guatemala, and lies about thirty miles to the westward 
of the present capital, which is situated on the northern 
border of a vast plain, 4500 feet above the sea, in lat. 
14° 35' N., and long. 90° 45' W. The locality is most 
healthy, and the scenery lovely in the extreme ; the 
mean average temperature for the year is 65°. 

# Guatemala is said to have received its name from the word quaulite- 
mali, which, in the Aztec language, means a decayed log of wood, because 
the Mexican Indians who accompanied Alvarado found near the palace of 
the kings of Kachiquel an old worm-eaten tree. Some writers, however, 
state that the name is derived from uhatezmallia, which signifies " a moun- 
tain that throws out water," in allusion to the volcano contiguous to the 
city. I am mclined to think the latter derivation the most probable. 




Nicaragua is unquestionably the most important of 
all the states of Central America, if only from its geo- 
graphical position, affording as it does a ready means of 
access from sea to sea. Its boundaries are the same 
which pertained to it as a province, namely, the Mos- 
quito territory on the east, the Pacific Ocean on the 
west, Honduras on the north, — following the river Wanks 
from Cape Gracias-a-Dios to its source, and thence down 
the Rio Negro to the sea in the Gulf of Fonseca, — Costa- 
rica on the south, the actual boundary-line being still 
in dispute between the two Republics. Nicaragua is 
very irregular in its outline, and therefore it is difficult 
to define its geographical position ; but it may be said 
to be between the 14th and 11th parallel of north lati- 
tude and 84° 15' and 86° 30' of west longitude. It con- 
tains an area of rather more than 30,000 square miles, — 
about the size of Portugal.* 

* " Nicaragua, one of the five sovereign states of Central America, is about 


The climate of Nicaragua is varied ; in the plains it is 
tropical, but any degree of temperature may be obtained 
by resorting to the hill-country at the northern extreme 
of the lake, where the Andes appear to be effectually 
broken by the great transverse valley from sea to sea. 
The absence of mountains towards the Atlantic permits 
the trade winds to sweep across the country, and venti- 
late it to such a degree as to make the temperature very 
agreeable to health and feeling, even in the plains. There 
are two seasons, wet and dry, or summer and winter ; 
the wet lasts from May to November, but often conside- 
rable periods elapse without a drop of rain or a cloud 
obscuring the deep blue of the sky. The maximum 
range of the thermometer is from 80° to 90°. In the 
dry season the temperature is much cooler and often 
quite chilly, clear sky, passing showers, and fine bracing 
atmosphere. Few observations have been taken, but 
the following will afford a fair average : — Total annual 

half the area of Great Britain, but contains a population of only a quarter 
of a million, of whom nearly half reside in towns. The country is mostly 
a dead level, covered with perennial forest, growing on a soil of apparently 
extreme fertility. Its climate has two marked seasons, the wet and the 
dry, of which the former is called the winter, on account of its chilliness, 
though the sun is at that time vertical. The whole territory is eminently 
volcanic, such hills as there are being either active or extinct volcanos. 
The chief exports of Nicaragua are hides (about 50,000 annually) and 
various woods. One-half of its population are pure Indians, and the rest, 
excepting very few pure Spaniards, are of intermixed races. Nearly the 
whole are Roman Catholics, and speak Spanish. They are exceedingly illi- 
terate ; even a high official doubted whether or no London was a town 
in England. Nicaragua has been chiefly famous for its civil wars. Its 
Government — as those in the four neighbouring Central American repub- 
lics — consists of a President, elected for four years, and a Senate, and a 
House of Representatives." — 'A Sketch of Nicaragua.' By Gerard Raoul 
Perry, Esq., H.B.M. Vice-Consul for that State. Proceedings of R. G. 
Society, vol. vi. no. Ill, p. 74. 



rain, 97 '7 inches; rain fell 139 days, rest dry; mean 
highest temperature 86*45°, mean lowest 71*15°, mean 
average of the year 77*42°. 

The early accounts of the habits and customs of the 
natives are vague and unsatisfactory. Perhaps the most 
reliable chronicle is that of Gonzales Hernandez de 
Oviedo y Valdez, historiographer of the Indies to the 
King of Spain, who was in Nicaragua when the country 
was attacked and conquered, about 1522, by Gil Gon- 
zales de Avila. 

In Nicaragua " Nature has lavished her richest gifts 
and assumed her most magnificent forms ; high vol- 
canos, gentle slopes, level plains, and broad and beauti- 
ful lakes and rivers, are here combined with a fertility 
of soil and a salubriousness of climate, probably unsur- 
passed by any equal extent of country under the tropics. 
These were conditions eminently favourable for bring- 
ing together primitive communities of men, and for nur- 
turing and sustaining a vast population. That it did 
so, we have the testimony of all the early chroniclers ; 
and he who has passed over its broad plains and luxu- 
riant slopes, and observed its attractions and resources, 
will be prepared to credit the assertion of the pious Las 
Casas, that it was 'one of the best-peopled countries 
in all America.' 

" The Indians of Nicaragua enjoy equal privileges 
with the whites, and may aspire to any position, how- 
ever high, both in the Church and State. The system 
of peonage (slavery under a less repugnant name) is here 
unknown; yet the Indian retains his traditionary de- 
ference for the white man, and tacitly admits his supe- 


riority. Their dress is exceedingly simple. On ordinary 
occasions the women wear only a white or flowered 
skirt, fastened around the waist, leaving the upper part 
of the person entirely exposed, or but partially covered 
by a handkerchief fastened around the neck. In Ma- 
saya and some other places, a square piece of cloth, of 
native manufacture, and of precisely the same style and 
pattern with that used for the same purpose before the 
Discovery, supplies the place of the skirt. It is fas- 
tened in some incomprehensible way, without the aid of 
strings or pins, and falls from the hips a little below the 
knees. The guipil and nagua are however adopted in 
nearly all the large towns, and are everywhere worn on 
festival days and Sundays. The men wear a kind of 
cotton drawers, fastened above the hips, but frequently 
reaching no lower than the knees. Sandals supply the 
place of shoes, but for the most part both sexes go with 
their feet bare. The taste for ornament is universal. 
They are also fond of flowers, and the girls are seldom 
without some of them, entwined amongst the luxuriant 
locks of their long black hair, or braided in a chaplet, 
and encircling their foreheads. 

" The aborigines of Nicaragua, as also of the other 
states of Central America, still constitute numerically 
the predominating portion of the population ; and if we 
include the people of other races amalgamated with 
them, they undoubtedly comprehend three-fourths of 
the entire inhabitants. Most of these are what may be 
called civilized; but there are many tribes occupying 
large tracts of unexplored country, generally denomi- 
nated ' Inclios Bravos,' who are more or less savage, 

t> 2 


and whose numbers we have no means of estimating. 
They undoubtedly retain their primitive habits, very 
little modified from what they were before the period 
of the Discovery. But amongst the civilized Indians of 
Nicaragua, although mingling freely with the inhabi- 
tants of European descent, there has not been that 
change from their original habits which might at first 
be supposed. Indeed it is, in many respects, hard to 
say whether the conquerors have assimilated most to the 
Indians, or the Indians most to the Spaniards. 

" The Indians of to-day occupy the towns that their 
ancestors occupied; and the departmental and other 
subdivisions of the country coincide very nearly with the 
ancient principalities or chieftaincies. The prefects, or 
heads of these departments, have only supplanted the 
caciques ; and the existing municipalities only supply 
the place of the Guegues, or councils of old men. Many 
of the social as well as civil institutions of the country 
have been recognized and perpetuated by the Spaniards ; 
and some of the ceremonies of the aboriginal ritual have 
also been incorporated amongst the rites of the Catholic 

" Thus much may be said of the Indians of Central 
America generally, but the following observations must 
be understood to refer specifically to those of Nicaragua, 
although perhaps quite true of those of the other states. 
In character they are singularly docile and industrious, 
and constitute what would in some countries be called 
an excellent 'rural population.' They are a smaller 
race of men than the Indians of the United States, but 
have fine muscular developments, and a singularly mild 


and soft expression of countenance. In colour also they 
are lighter, and their features less strongly marked. 
Some of the women are exceedingly pretty, and, when 
young, have figures beautifully and classically moulded. 
They are entirely unobtrusive in their manners, seldom 
speaking unless first addressed, and are always kind and 
hospitable to the stranger. They are not warlike, but 
brave ; and when reduced to the necessity, fight with 
desperate obstinacy. The agriculture of the state is al- 
most entirely carried on by them."* 

The population of Nicaragua does not exceed 300,000, 
and of this number scarcely one-tenth are whites ; the 
remainder consist of Indians, Mestizos, and Negroes. 
The consequence is, that the authorities are for the most 
part chosen from the two latter classes, universal suffrage 
being the law of the land. This is the more to be re- 
gretted, inasmuch as the coloured races of Nicaragua, 
as everywhere else, cannot by any stretch of imagina- 
tion be considered sufficiently intellectual to govern; 
while, on the contrary, the white natives are intelligent, 
courteous, and hospitable. 

After continuing under Spanish rule for three centu- 
ries, the conquerors were expelled the country they had 
so shamefully misused. During their lengthy sojourn 
in the land, the Iberian immigrants seldom or never 
identified themselves with the new country : all their 
settlements are in ruins or falling to decay ; they came 
not to develope the soil, not to render the mineral wealth 
accessible, not to clear and settle the land, but to get to- 
gether by any means, however wicked, sufficient wealth 

* Transactions of the American Ethnological Society. 


to ensure them a life of luxury and indolence. With 
such pioneers of civilization, it is no wonder that the 
Spanish raid has not left an impress for good on any 
part of the New World. Contrast North America, from 
which the Spaniards turned aside with disdain because 
there was no speedy means of obtaining riches. What 
astounding results have not been produced there during 
the three hundred years worse than wasted in the south- 
ern part of the continent ! 

In 1815 Nicaragua attempted to throw off the yoke 
of Spain. In 1821 the Central American states, namely 
Guatemala, Honduras, San Salvador, Nicaragua, and 
Costarica, declared their independence; and in 1822 
they were incorporated with Mexico under the Em- 
peror Iturbide. This arrangement lasted but a short 
time, and was followed by the creation of the five states 
into a federation similar to that of the United States. 
The Republic of Central America only lasted two years ; 
the National Assembly met in Guatemala, but its mea- 
sures are not worth recording, save and except the aboli- 
tion of slavery throughout the states. In 1825 the Fe- 
deration dissolved. In 1829 it was reconstituted under 
General Morazan, but again destroyed by Carrera. Dur- 
ing the next twenty years a series of revolutions and in- 
testine quarrels followed, the tendency of which has been 
to reduce the country to a condition less civilized than 
when first discovered. In 1851, Honduras, San Salva- 
dor, and Nicaragua formed a union; in 1852 it was 
broken up ; and since that period the five states have 
maintained a separate government, although subsequent 
events in Nicaragua have proved that a strong fellow- 


feeling exists between them. In 1853 a sharp contest for 
the Presidency took place in Nicaragua between Sefiors 
Castellon and Chamorro ; the latter obtained the vic- 
tory, and banished his opponent, who however while in 
Honduras succeeded in organizing an expedition against 
Chamorro. At Leon, the real capital of the state, he 
was well received ; and adding largely to his forces, met 
his adversary in a pitched battle, and completely routed 
him. Chamorro then took refuge in Granada, the rival 
capital of Nicaragua, and Castellon at once laid siege 
to that place. The city withstood every effort to over- 
come it. At this stage of the proceedings Castellon fell 
back upon that most ancient of expedients, and decided 
to call in foreign aid. His choice fell upon Colonel 
Walker, who at that time had attained considerable no- 
toriety, from an effort to establish an independent repub- 
lic in Sonora, a province of Northern Mexico, where he 
had displayed great military skill and daring. Walker 
agreed to act with Castellon on certain conditions, and 
appears to have made the arrangement more to gratify 
ambition and love of daring adventure than from any sor- 
did motive ; and no doubt the majority of his followers 
were enlisted with the same views. In June, 1855, General 
Walker and fifty-six men joined themselves to the army 
of Castellon. Any number of Calif ornians might have 
been engaged to follow the fortunes of Walker, espe- 
cially as these men, in their passage through Nicaragua, 
had seen with longing eyes the beauty, fertility, and 
richness of the country; but a small number was deemed 
sufficient, particularly as they were picked men. Gene- 
ral Walker's first fight was at Eivas ; his force consisted 


of 55 Americans and 100 natives, against the troops 
under General Boscha, numbering upwards of a thou- 
sand. The hundred natives fled at the very commence- 
ment of the action, nevertheless the Americans stood 
their ground ; but after losing twelve of their number 
they were compelled to retreat. This fight, however, 
had a most salutary effect on the enemy, as they had 
a practical opportunity of proving the material their 
new adversaries were made of. General Boscha owned 
a loss of 180 in killed and wounded. In the next 
fight, at Virgen Bay, Walker was victorious. His reputa- 
tion was now established ; and the capture of Granada, 
the deaths of the chiefs of the respective parties, Cha- 
morro and Castellon,* as well as other favourable cir- 
cumstances, acting in his favour, he became virtually the 
head of the state. The account of proceedings in Ni- 
caragua at this period have an interest for Englishmen, 
as it is a sort of reflex of their own history some centu- 
ries ago. The struggle for power was between two great 
sections of the state, Leon and Granada: the former 
styled their chief Director, and wore a badge of red rib- 
bon in their hats ; the latter named their leader Presi- 

* Castellon was a man of large and enlightened views. He keenly felt 
the fallen state of his country, and did his utmost to restore her. It was 
he who corresponded with the present Emperor of the French when a 
prisoner at Ham, with a view to induce his Majesty to adopt Nicaragua. 

General Walker thus describes his first interview with him : — " Cas- 
tellon received the new-comers with frank cordiality, and expressed the 
lively pleasure he felt at their arrival. It did not require many minutes 
to see that he was not the man to control a revolutionary movement, or 
to conduct it to a successful issue. There was a certain indecision, not 
merely in his words and features, but even in his walk and the general 
motions of his body ; and this trait of character seemed to be aggravated 
by the circumstances about him." 


dent, and mounted the white ribbon ; and, curiously 
enough, many of the phases of this struggle closely re- 
semble the Wars of the Roses in other respects besides 
the distinctive badges of the two parties. 

At this time the office of President was tendered to 
the American General, but he declined, and instead no- 
minated Don Patricio Rivas as provisional President for 
fourteen months, with a Cabinet composed of the fol- 
lowing members, four of them Nicaraguans, and two 
Americans. At the same time the standing army was 
fixed at 150 Americans and 150 natives. 


Don Patricio Rivas President. 

General William Walker Commander -in- Chief. 

General Maximo Xeres Minister of State. 

General Ponciano Corral Minister of War. 

Colonel Parker H. French. Minister of the Hacienda. 

Don Fermin Ferrer Minister of Public Credit. 

This arrangement was made in October, 1855, but 
was not destined to continue long in its integrity; a 
fortnight had hardly elapsed before a correspondence 
of General Corral was intercepted, and he himself 
proved a traitor on the clearest evidence. Walker, 
being convinced of his colleague's guilt, ordered him 
to be shot, which sentence was at once carried into 

General Walker was born in 1824; his father was 
a banker in Scotland, but emigrated to the United 
States in 1820. He graduated successively in law and 
physic, but settled down as an editor of a paper in 
New Orleans ; thence he went to California in a similar 
capacity, and left that employment to become a leader 


of filibusters* against Sonora, one of the northern divi- 
sions of Mexico ; his object was to erect that magnifi- 
cent district into an independent republic, but the time 
was not well chosen for the attempt, and he failed. 
General Walker was a small wiry man, height five feet 
four inches, very light hair and thick moustache, no 
beard or whiskers, eyes prominent and large, of a singu- 
larly light grey colour ; his manner was grave and taci- 
turn, habits most temperate ; highly ambitious, but care- 
less of acquiring wealth ; brave without being reckless, 
resolute and determined, he proved himself a model 
leader for the desperate and lawless men with whom he 
had afterwards to deal. 

General Walker, directly he was able, devoted him- 
self to the development of his adopted country ; he 
caused explorations of the land to be made, and did 
his utmost to encourage enterprise and industry. Im- 
migration met with his especial favour, as the true 
means of enriching the State ; while in council he in- 
troduced an enlightened policy which would no doubt 
ultimately have proved most beneficial, had not the op- 
position he met with from his own country completely 
neutralized all his efforts. The United States, after 
vacillating for some time, refused to acknowledge the 
new government of Nicaragua, and this decided the 

* The word ' filibuster ' is a French and Spanish corruption of the 
English word 'freebooter,' an appellation which, in former days, from its 
being frequently assumed by a certain class of men, who disliked the 
harsher name of ' pirate,' became familiar to the inhabitants of the West 
India Islands and Central America ; but as filibusterism is now used, it 
expresses the action of the American people, or a portion of the people, in 
the acquisition of territory which does not belong to them, unrestrained 
by the responsibilities of the American Government. 


hesitating states of Central America, who viewed with 
jealousy and aversion Walker's progressive tendencies ; 
they speedily assumed a hostile attitude, soon followed 
by an open rupture. In March, 1856, the Costarican 
army met a force of 207 men, under Colonel Schle- 
singer, and utterly routed them, the Colonel being the 
first man to run, for which Walker sentenced him to be 
shot, but he escaped. The Costaricans then murdered 
a number of shopkeepers and innocent persons at Vir- 
gen Bay, after which they marched upon the town of 
Rivas, and succeeded in occupying it with 2500 men. 
General Walker now took the field in person, and at 
the head of 500 men attacked Rivas. The battle con- 
tinued the whole day; all the staff were killed or 
wounded, and a loss of 130 men compelled Walker to 
retire. The Costaricans admitted a loss of more than 
500 men, and although they remained masters of the 
town, yet after a few days they considered it prudent to 
retire with all haste into Costarica. Another attempt 
to induce the United States to acknowledge the Govern- 
ment of Nicaragua was successful, although the political 
conditions were the same as when the previous applica- 
tion had been made two months before. The recogni- 
tion, however, came too late to be of any use : the hosti- 
lity of the surrounding states had been stirred up, and to 
the extraordinary diplomacy of the United States, added 
to the enmity of a powerful countryman, whom Walker 
unavoidably provoked, may be traced his downfall. 

The great mistake of Walker at this period of his 
career was the acceptance on his part of the presidential 
chair ; and this mistake was the less excusable in a man 


of Ms intelligence, because he could not have been at a 
loss to find a native to fill that place who would have 
been entirely subservient to him. 

To maintain himself in power, it was absolutely neces- 
sary that the approaches to the Lake of Nicaragua 
should be kept open, so as to allow of the free arrival 
of a constant succession of recruits to feed his Nicara- 
guan army ; but the infusion of Anglo-Saxon intelligence 
and energy into the council and tactics of the Costa- 
ricans turned the balance. A series of masterly move- 
ments, made in December, 1856, by their troops, under 
command of Captain Spencer and General Mora, placed 
all the approaches in their power ; and rapidly following 
up this success by the defeat and destruction of a body 
of filibusters at the mouth of the Serepiqui ; by the 
seizure of all the transit steamers ; and, by the capture 
of the forts Castillo Viejo and San Carlos, on the river 
San Juan, they virtually sealed Walker's doom by cut- 
ting off his communication with the Southern States of 
America, and thus stopping his supplies of men and 
munitions of war. About 300 recruits for Walker's 
army arrived at Greytown from New Orleans on the 
very day Captain Spencer seized the river steamboats, 
and these men were just in time to see their only means 
of transport to the interior disappear up the shallow 
waters of the San Juan, where it was impossible to 
reach them. 

In the meantime Walker fought the battles of Masaya 
and Granada, and stood his ground manfully against 
fearful odds. The obstinate valour of the filibusters, as 
displayed by holding the walls of the great church of 


Granada against eight times their number, reads more 
like romance than reality. When I visited the spot in 
1860, I was much struck by the appearance of the ruins, 
which were absolutely covered with rifle bullets and 
shot-holes ; the place seemed to be quite shelterless ; 
nevertheless General Henningsen, with 400 men, de- 
fended the bare walls for nineteen days against upwards 
of 3000 Central Americans ; the besieged lived on their 
horses while they lasted, and then sustained life by eating 
the dead bodies of their comrades ; their sufferings were 
awful, yet not one thought of surrender. On the nine- 
teenth day only 150 were left out of the 400, and Gene- 
ral Henningsen determined, as a last resort, to cut his 
way through the enemy ; but that night General Walker, 
with 175 men, landed from the lake in the rear of the 
besieging army, forced his way over three successive 
breastworks, and after a most gallant and daring attack, 
though with the loss of nearly half his number, effected 
a junction with Henningsen. The allied Central Ame- 
ricans retreated in despair, and began to quarrel amongst 
themselves. This would have been the time for Walker 
to strike a decisive blow, but the paucity of his numbers 
paralysed his movements, and the news of the success 
of their friends on the San Juan once more gave the 
Central Americans encouragement and cohesiveness. 

It was now simply a question of how long Walker 
could withstand the pressure against him. He disputed 
every inch of ground, but was slowly forced to retreat 
towards San Juan del Sur ; his last halt was at Rivas, 
where a desperate stand was made. But all his ef- 
forts were of no avail against the overwhelming forces 


opposed to him ; each encounter, although actually a 
victory, was in reality a defeat, from the number of his 
men disabled, whom it was impossible to replace. Thus, 
early in 1857, Walker, with a mere handful of men, 
after performing prodigies of valour, found himself 
most reluctantly compelled to seek shelter on board a 
man-of-war of the United States navy, by which vessel 
himself and the remnant of his followers were conveyed 
away from Nicaragua. 

After an occupation of the country for nearly two 
years, the filibusters were finally expelled, having lost, 
in killed and wounded, nine-tenths of their numbers. 
The daring valour of these men made them respected 
throughout the land, and there can be no question, that 
had Walker maintained a footing in the State, he would 
have completely regenerated it; he would then have 
been worshipped as a great man, but failing, he has 
been hunted to death. The upper class, the real de- 
scendants of the Spaniards, were favourable to the in- 
fusion of a foreign element ; they were quite tired with 
the constant anarchy, ruin, and misery, characteristic 
of Central America, and any foreign influence capable 
of guaranteeing peace to their country would have been 
welcome ; but their voice in the State was too weak, 
chiefly because their number was small, and even amongst 
themselves they were not united ; consequently their op- 
portunity was lost. 

The object of General Walker has been thoroughly 
misunderstood in this country, and wilfully misstated in 
the United States, where his plan was well known; 
but the formation of a powerful independent Central 

walker's object and policy. 47 

American Federation was not palatable to the Cabinet at 
Washington, for the principal reason, that the monopoly 
of transit across the Isthmus would no longer be in the 
hands of Americans, but be open to the world. Our 
Ministers, therefore, were quietly allowed to entertain 
the erroneous opinion that annexation was Walker's 
purpose, and then, by a mixture of cajolery and bully- 
ing (in which the Yankees have long held a monopoly 
as regards England), were made to assist, or rather made 
to do the dirty work, in the downfall and murder of a 
man who would have proved a true friend, if only left 
alone. General Walker never had the slightest inten- 
tion of adding another State to the American Union : 
at the invitation of Castellon he threw himself boldly 
into Nicaragua, with the ambition to restore that mag- 
nificent country to its proper position among nations. 
He saw at a glance that the germ of commercial success 
was there, if only from geographical position ; and this 
view was more than confirmed by a subsequent inspec- 
tion of the overflowing richness of the mineral, vegetable, 
and animal kingdom. 

To elevate a nation into fit companionship with 
other peoples was surely a worthy aim, and this ap- 
pears to have been Walker's sincere purpose. Not a 
single case of cruelty or maladministration is recorded 
against him ; on the contrary, he seems to have 
governed with wisdom, courage, and firmness, and to 
have been decidedly popular with the people, who una- 
nimously voted him President; but the combination 
against him was too strong. Honduras, Guatemala, 
San Salvador, and Costarica joined against him, not be- 


cause they cared to save Nicaragua, but to save them- 
selves from merging into a Federation, the government 
of which would doubtless have fallen for the most part 
into the hands of the superior state of Nicaragua as 
soon as that country devoted itself to developing its 
grand geographical position. 

The troops of the native states would have been 
powerless to stay Walker's progress, had it not been for 
the enmity of individual Americans, who infused an 
energy and ability into the operations of the native forces 
which they never could have attained by themselves; and, 
the efforts of the allied naval forces of Great Britain 
and the United States to effect his destruction, by keenly 
watching his every movement, and by the latter power 
in effecting his capture and basely consigning him to 
death. Intervention as regards small and weak powers 
is usually the policy of England, and certainly was that 
adopted in this case ; and if the authorities did experi- 
ence any qualm of conscience, it was silenced by the call 
from the United States, w T ho have only to speak to our 
rulers in a sufficiently peremptory manner to command 
immediate attention. Considering " the intimate rela- 
tions that have generally subsisted between our policy 
and our interest," it is marvellous the amount of blind- 
ness and flunkeyism we displayed in the case of Walker. 
Our policy is wow-intervention in the disunion of a great 
power, our Ministers probably thinking in this instance 
that if the contending parties are left alone we may es- 
cape in future the quantity of "dirt" which the States, 
when united, from time to time compelled the mother- 
country to swallow. 


The subsequent career of Walker is soon told. He 
was landed at New Orleans, and devoted himself to the 
organization of a new expedition, but from various 
causes so many followers do not appear to have rallied 
around his standard as he expected; in the meantime 
every avenue of approach to Nicaragua was so strictly 
guarded, chiefly by British cruisers, that Walker did 
not effect his purpose of re-entering Nicaragua at all. 
He however succeeded in the States in organizing a very 
formidable band, with which he sailed for Greytown, 
and even landed his men at Punta Arenas ; but here his 
further progress was put a stop to by an armed party 
from the U.S.S. Wabash, under her first lieutenant, who 
seized Walker and his men, and conveyed them as pri- 
soners on board the frigate, ultimately landing them 
at New Orleans. In August, 1860, the last and fatal 
attempt was made. Walker landed near Truxillo, and 
stormed the fort with a mere handful of men ; he pro- 
claimed that he came not to war on the people but 
on the government ;* but misfortune dogged his foot- 
steps, and he was very shortly under the necessity of 
giving himself up to an English man-of-war, whence 
he was transferred to the authorities of Honduras, by 
whose order he was shot at Truxillo on the 25th of 
September, 1860. It is stated that ten shots were fired* 
at him amid the cheers of the natives, and he was 
afterwards buried by foreigners. He met his death as 
became a soldier, without flinching, and with the ut- 
most calmness. General Walker, shortly before his 

* In which he imitated English policy in China in 1857 : — " We do not 
war upon the people, but only on the mandarins." 



execution, penned the following protest for publi- 
cation : — 

"I hereby protest before the civilized world that when I 
surrendered to the captain of her Majesty's steamer Icarus, 
that officer expressly received my sword and pistols, as well as 
the arms of Colonel Rundler, and the surrender was expressly, 
and in so many words, to him, as the representative of her 
Britannic Majesty. 

(Signature) " William Walker. 

" On board the steamer Icarus, September 5, I860." 

General Walker was the only victim ; Colonel Rundler 
was imprisoned, and the remaining filibusters were 
landed at New Orleans by H.M.S. Gladiator. 

After the expulsion of Walker in 1857, the choice 
of President fell upon a wealthy merchant, Thomas 
Martinez by name, who has administered the affairs of 
the State with judgment and prudence, and may lay 
claim to having advanced the interests of his country 
more than any of his predecessors. He established the 
seat of government at Managua, a town about midway 
between Granada and Leon, the rival capitals, and by 
this act did much to quiet the two great factions ; al- 
though as regards the Granada of to-day, it can hardly 
be called a town, as the greater part of the city has 
been destroyed; and I could not learn that there was 
much prospect of its ever being restored, the more 
especially as it is not well situated, either in a com- 
mercial or a sanitary point of view. The Republic is 
once again slowly rising from its ashes, and will, no 
doubt, ere long fulfil its destiny, by becoming a great 
highway of nations, and at the same time the garden 


of America ; its geographical position fits it exactly for 
the former, its fine climate and wonderful fertility will 
enable it to become the latter, by the infusion of a 
little energy and enterprise. In reference to the cli- 
mate, the following are the impressions of Walker on 
the soothing nature of the balmy, " soft, mild air, 
which seemed a fluid altogether different from the 
atmosphere of the northern climates. You felt as if a 
thin and vapoury exhalation of opium, soothing and 
exhilarating by turns, was being mixed at intervals 
with the common elements of the atmosphere." 

The northern part of the Kepublic is mountainous, 
but the southern consists entirely of the great trans- 
verse valley of the lakes, completely interrupting the 
Cordillera, which do not again attain any elevation 
until far within the territory of Costarica. This great 
valley is about two hundred miles long, by about one 
hundred broad, and consists for the most part of magni- 
ficent savanas. The country teems with precious metals, 
while animal and vegetable life are most abundant and 
prolific. The lakes shoal gradually towards the shore, 
and can be navigated with ease and safety in all direc 
tions ; there is only one outlet, and that is by the river 
San Juan, at the southern extremity. The land on the 
western side is thickly wooded, while that on the east- 
ern is mostly undulating and grassy, upon which large 
herds of cattle are raised, the hides of which constitute 
a large item among the exports of the country. 

The natural products of Nicaragua are multifarious; 
cotton, sugar, indigo, tobacco, rice, cacao, coffee, etc., 
may be produced in overflowing abundance ; the cotton 

E 2 


is of a superior quality. The cacao of Nicaragua has 
long been celebrated for its quality and value. The 
sugar-cane is slenderer than the variety cultivated in 
the West India Islands, but contains more saccharine 
matter. Two crops, and when the fields are irrigated, 
three crops, are taken from the same ground annu- 
ally. The crystals are remarkably large and fine, and 
the sugar itself, when carefully manufactured, nearly 
equal in beauty to the refined sugar of commerce. The 
indigo is produced from an indigenous plant called 
juiquilite (Indigofera disperma, Linn.), and has a high 
reputation in commerce. Coffee flourishes well on the 
higher grounds. The same may be said of tobacco, 
which is a government monopoly, and its production is 
not allowed except in certain quantities. Maize grows 
in great perfection, and, made into tortillas, constitutes 
a principal article of food. Dye-woods, chiefly the bra- 
ziletto, are extensively exported. All the edible roots 
and fruits of the tropics thrive well — plantains, bana- 
nas, beans, tomatoes, yams, arrowroot, citrons, melons of 
all kinds, limes, lemons, oranges, pine-apples or ananas, 
guavas, cocoa-nuts, and many other kinds of fruits and 
vegetables. Among the vegetable productions which 
enter into commerce may be mentioned sarsaparilla, 
annatto, vanilla, ginger, gum-copal, gum-arabic, copaiva, 
caoutchouc, dragon's-blood, etc. 

The mineral resources of Nicaragua are also abun- 
dant; gold, silver, copper, lead, and iron, are found in 
considerable quantities in various parts, but chiefly in 
the districts of Segovia and Chontales. The produc- 
tion of these metals has greatly fallen off since the 


independence from Spain ; still the produce is conside- 
rable, and with capital and good roads the overflowing 
treasures of the country might be worked with profit. 
Sulphur may be had in inexhaustible quantities, crude 
and nearly pure from the volcanos ; nitre is also abun- 
dant, as also sulphate of iron. Notwithstanding the 
variety of its products, and the ease with which they 
may be prepared for the market, the commerce of Ni- 
caragua is very limited. 

The political organization of the Eepublic provides 
that the executive power shall be vested in a President 
elected by popular vote for four years, and that he may 
be re-elected for another term ; he must be a native of 
Central America, resident ^Ye years in the state, and 
thirty years of age. There is a Senate and Congress. 
The Senate consists of twelve members, two from each 
of the six districts ; they must have all the qualifications 
of the President, besides property to the extent of one 
thousand dollars. The office is held for four years, 
three of the number retiring each year, but they may 
be re-elected. No ecclesiastic can be elected to this 
body. Members of Congress are chosen in the propor- 
tion of one for every 20,000 inhabitants, they must be 
twenty-five years of age, have resided one year in the 
state, and may be either secular or ecclesiastic. All 
males are electors, but some become so at eighteen — 
married men for instance. 

The rights of the citizen are defined to be, " Liberty, 
equality, security of life and property ; all of which are 
inseparable and inalienable, and inherent in the nature 
of man." Again, "Every man is free, and can neither 


sell himself nor be sold by others." The Catholic reli- 
gion is recognized by the State, but all other religions 
are tolerated. A concordat has j ust been received from 
the Pope (August, 1862), by which tithes are abolished, 
and a fixed sum paid to the clergy out of the revenue. 
Liberty of speech and freedom of the press are guaran- 
teed, and the inviolability of the domicile recognized. 

The Judiciary consists of a supreme court, the mem- 
bers being named by Congress and approved by the 
Senate ; there are three judges in each department, one 
of whom is nominated the presiding judge over each 
of the six districts ; these six judges meeting annually 
in the capital constitute a court of appeal. They hold 
office for four years, but are eligible for re-election. 

From the above, and the general description of the 
country which is here given, it will be seen that Nica- 
ragua possesses great fertility and vast resources, and 
that nothing is wanting but a firm government, and 
moderate energy and industry, to raise it, in a short 
space, from the slough of despond into which it, in com- 
mon with most Spanish American states, has for so long 
been plunged. 




In order to complete this general view of the present 
position of the Central American nationalities, it is ne- 
cessary to sketch the history of the Mosquito shore, and 
narrate the state and condition of that most important 
portion of Central America. The boundaries of the 
Mosquito territory have, from time immemorial, been 
in dispute, and to enter fully upon the subject would 
fill volumes. I shall in this place define the country, 
as included between the river San Juan on the south, 
and Cape Cameron on the north, as the points within 
which the Spaniards and their descendants have never 
succeeded in establishing themselves. The whole coun- 
try, it is true, belonged to Spain under the Papal bull 
issued in 1524 by Alexander VI., the father of the Bor- 
gias, Lucretia and Csesar, with this additional privilege, 
" that should the natives refuse to embrace the Romish 
faith and acknowledge her sway, they might be ex- 
tirpated." The Spaniards, however, do not appear to 


have availed themselves of this generous permission to 
seize upon the Mosquito Indian's body and soul ; and 
in no instance did they effect even a temporary footing 
within the limits I have designated, while to this day 
the natives retain their freedom and language; and so 
far from owning the allegiance of either Spain or her 
revolted dependencies, they entertain the most bitter 
animosity to the whole Spanish race. Early in the 
seventeenth century the Mosquito Indians allied them- 
selves with the buccaneers, and from that period their 
friendship for the English may be dated. This pre- 
dilection of the natives has on several occasions been 
most useful, especially against the Spaniards in 1780, 
when they proved themselves very worthy allies ; in- 
deed, but for their bravery and fidelity, the expedition 
up the river San Juan, and on to the Lake Nicaragua, 
under Nelson, would have perished to a man, as is 
testified in the account of the attack given in the ' Life 
of Nelson,' whose name, by the bye, is as much vene- 
rated in Mosquito as in England. 

In 1786 a treaty, quite as unnecessary as that signed 
in 1860, was made with the King of Spain; no reason 
has ever been given for this foolish act, which of course 
entailed ruin on hundreds of British subjects, who 
upon the faith of a British protectorate had established 
themselves in Mosquito. By the terms of this treaty 
it was agreed that "the Mosquito country should be 
evacuated by the subjects of his Britannic Majesty, 
and that he should disown in the most solemn manner 
any obstruction to such evacuation." His Catholic 
Majesty, on his part, " prompted solely by motives of 


humanity, promises to the King of England that he 
will not exercise any severity against the Mosquito In- 
dians inhabiting in part the countries that are to be eva- 
cuated in virtue of the present convention, on account 
of any connection which may have subsisted between 
the said Indians and the English."* His Catholic 
Majesty kept his word by making forays along the coast, 
but in spite of every effort no head could be made 
against this indomitable aboriginal race; and in 1796, 
the Spaniards having suffered a signal defeat at Black 
Eiver by a Mosquito force, gave up their attempts in 
despair, and the natives were not again molested by 

From this it is clear that, during the suspension of 
friendly relations on the part of England in 1786, the 
Mosquito Indians were able to maintain their freedom 
and independent existence, and therefore by no perver- 
sion of words can they be said to be or to have been 
ever under Spanish rule. 

During the wars of Napoleon, little was heard of 
Mosquito ; a limited commerce was carried on, and a 
new king was crowned by the English at Jamaica, after 
the manner of his forefathers, a custom which origi- 

* 1670. The Mosquito Indians placed themselves under the protecto- 
rate of Great Britain, and their king was acknowledged during James II. 's 
reign, under the Great Seal of Jamaica, by the Duke of Albemarle. 

1730. English settlements were formed at Black River, Cape Gracias- 
a-Dios,and Blewfields. 

1741. Civil government was established, forts built and garrisoned by- 
British troops. 

1763. At the peace, civil and military authorities were withdrawn by 

1776. The establishments were placed on their former footing, but again 
withdrawn in 1788. 


nated in 1687, and is still in force, the present king 
having been crowned at Belize a few years back. But 
the great events which had convulsed Europe found 
an echo in the remotest corners of the earth. The 
period had now arrived when the narrow policy of 
Spain recoiled upon herself, and lost her the proudest 
jewel in the king's crown. The struggle for indepen- 
dence in Spanish America of course attracted the atten- 
tion of Europe towards that part of the world ; and the 
immense importance, both in a commercial and strate- 
gical point of view, of the narrow strip of land which 
connects the continent was then made manifest. 

From that period Europe paid considerable attention 
to the movements of the new nationalities, especially in 
the vicinity of the " Isthmus of the Americas," as afford- 
ing a vast opening for commerce ; at the same time 
England renewed her alliance with the Mosquito Indians, 
w r ho gladly welcomed their old friend back again. 
Meanwhile, the new republics were busily engaged cut- 
ting each other to pieces, and preparing for themselves 
years of poverty and misrule ; no effort on the part of 
the nations of Europe could persuade them to settle 
their differences, and turn their attention to the arts 
of peace ; in short, nearly twenty years elapsed before 
quiet was in any degree restored to this distracted 
land. Indeed, even now there is poor promise for the 
future ; and probably nothing will regenerate the coun- 
try but the introduction of a purer and more energetic 

The repeated attempts, and the anxiety displayed, 
by various people to increase the commerce of their 


respective countries by the discovery of a practicable 
route for the construction of a canal from sea to sea, 
of course attracted the attention of the natives of the 
soil, and especially the people of Nicaragua, who could 
not fail to observe that the only means by which they 
could reach the Atlantic was by way of the river San 
Juan, an outlet of their magnificent lake, but forming a 
harbour at its mouth, within the territory of Mosquito. 
The value of the entire stream was thus made apparent 
to them; and trusting to the forbearance of England, 
they made an attempt to take possession by force. In 
1836 a body of Nicaraguans descended the river, and 
seized upon the settlement at its mouth. The popu- 
lation, composed of British settlers and Mosquito men, 
was too small to offer any resistance, and accordingly 
the Nicaraguans held the place vi et armis. As soon 
as the King of Mosquito heard of this outrage he com- 
municated with Colonel Macdonald, superintendent of 
Belize, and that officer lost no time in entering an 
appearance in the harbour ; he displayed equal celerity 
in ejecting the intruders. Colonel Quijano, the com- 
mandant, at first declined to depart, but he was not 
requested to do so a second time, and speedily found 
himself at another part of the coast, and his fol- 
lowers dispersed. Hardly, however, had Colonel Mac- 
donald returned to Belize before the Nicaraguans again 
occupied the port ; this time they were not disturbed, 
but allowed to remain until the question had been con- 
sidered in England ; where the deliberations led to the 
request that Nicaragua would state upon what grounds 
she founded her claims. After waiting a long time for 


a reply, the King of Mosquito himself gave notice that 
unless the port was restored to him within a given period 
he would take forcible possession ; this he did, aided by 
a small number of British seamen and marines, at the 
expiration of the time allowed ; but no sooner had the 
allies departed than the Nicaraguans sent troops to pull 
down the Mosquito flag, and capture the Mosquito au- 
thorities. It now became necessary to act with decision 
in the matter; and a force under Captain Lock, R.N., 
proceeded there, dislodged the Nicaraguans, and drove 
them up the river. Captain Lock followed, and cap- 
tured Fort San Carlos, situated at the junction of the 
lake ; he was accompanied by a number of Mosquito 
Indians, who proved themselves as brave, faithful, and 
useful as when with Nelson in the same locality seventy 
years previously; and no doubt he might have landed 
his force at Granada, and have captured that city, had 
the necessity existed ; but the President and Congress 
signed a treaty on the 7th March, 1848, by which, re- 
serving the right to prove their claim, they undertook 
not to molest Mosquito in her occupation of the point 
in question. 

This treaty has been a fruitful source of annoyance 
ever since. It was a great mistake to treat at all ; but 
it was an act of folly to invite litigation on the subject. 
The claim of Mosquito was just and valid, and the 
Nicaraguans ought simply to have been punished for 
their presumption, and warned to be more careful in 
future. They were, of course, anxious to possess the 
harbour of San Juan, or, as it is more commonly called, 
Greytown, because the immense importance of the po- 


sition was apparent to the meanest capacity ; but they 
had, in reality, no more claim to the country than Spain 
has to Portugal. 

The gallant old conquerors failed in all their at- 
tempts on the Mosquito shore; and even, it is said, made 
the obstructions in the river San Juan, by which the 
navigation of that stream is impeded, for no other pur- 
pose than to keep out intruders, of whom the Mosquito 
Indians were perhaps the most dreaded. How then 
can their descendants presume to lay claim to the land \ 
Even supposing the ancient rights of the King of Mos- 
quito to be pronounced null and void, there is the fact 
in his favour, that, on the evacuation of the continent 
by Spain, he was the first to establish a settlement at 
the harbour of San Juan, and therefore by the act of 
occupation he has a right to the soil : besides, at the 
time when the Mcaraguans sent to take the place, there 
was not even one representative of their country living 
in the vicinity, neither was there even one habitation 
owned by a Nicaraguan citizen ; the town consisted en- 
tirely of British settlers and Mosquito Indians. The 
first house was built in 1824 by Messrs. Bowden, Shep- 
herd, and three others. Captain Shepherd had, before 
this date, possessed a store on the opposite side of the 
harbour, and carried on a trade between Jamaica and 
Granada. San Juan was named Grey town after Sir 
Charles Grey, Governor of Jamaica, by direction of the 
King in council, December 8th, 1847. 

Greytown was not permitted to pass even its seven 
years' apprenticeship in peace, but was wantonly de- 
stroyed by Commander Hollis, of the U. S. corvette 


Cyane, on the 13th of July, 1854. Not satisfied with 
bombarding an unresisting town, the commander landed 
his men, and burnt the place to the ground, under cir- 
cumstances of peculiar insult to the English and their 
flag ; in fact, during the last ten years every sort of 
indignity has been heaped upon the protectors of Mos- 
quito by the Americans, who have never made any secret 
of their intention to monopolize the whole of the con- 
tinent for themselves, and to drive out interlopers by 
foul means if unable to do so by fair. Our Govern- 
ment has, indeed, been kicked and cuifed, and made to 
eat any quantity of dirt ; and there is no knowing how 
much further a weak Administration might have help- 
lessly drifted, with every probability of shipwreck to 
the national honour and dignity, had not our bullying 
cousins begun to let blood amongst themselves. 

Most unfortunately for the nation, the proceedings in 
Grey town were not suffered to attain any notoriety in 
this country ; the locality was distant and little known, 
otherwise the public would have made itself heard in 
reprobation of such scandalous conduct, and probably 
by interposing have prevented the crowning act of 
this disgraceful drama, by which we gave up everything 
at America's dictation, and negotiated a treaty as weak 
and contemptible as that concluded in 1787. Under 
a Liberal Government acts like these seem to be quite 
the fashion; there is, indeed, the utmost liberality in 
giving up all that a true Englishman holds most dear. 
Every principle was thrown to the winds in the treaties 
regarding the Bay Islands and Mosquito. The Mexican 
question has been shamefully mismanaged; and there 


can be no doubt that, however much the policy of 
non-intervention between the Northern and Southern 
States of America may be supposed to subserve our 
interests, by permitting us quietly to look on while our 
powerful and, it must be owned, unscrupulous rival 
utterly exhausts and brutalizes himself, yet that policy 
h not an honest and manly one; it does not spring 
from the true and generous instincts of an English- 
man's heart, and therefore its degrading selfishness 
will inevitably recoil upon us. One result of our pre- 
sent policy is already certain: both North and South 
are agreed in dislike to England. This might be met 
with contempt, and the enmity of the whole world 
treated with equanimity, if brought upon us undeserv- 
edly.; but it becomes a very different affair when a 
people feel that it is the result of a narrow and sneak- 
ing policy, and one which appears to be chronic on the 
part of their Government. It has been well said by 
an able writer, that " A Government in this country is 
more strengthened in public estimation by timely acts 
of necessary firmness and prompt decision than they 
can be weakened by the most rabid and concentrated 
attacks directed by the leaders of organized assemblies, 
animated by a zeal for passive endurance of wrong, in 
feeble dread of the possible results of a vigorous and 
unflinching maintenance of undoubted and important 
rights. No true statesman can be regardless of the future 
dangers and difficulties which are certain to spring from 
every concession wrung from a weak policy." 

A narrative of facts in connection with the policy of 
England, the United States, and Nicaragua on the 


Mosquito question, will be given in a future chapter ; 
in the meantime it is necessary to give a brief descrip- 
tion of Mosquito itself. The immediate coast-line, ex- 
tending from Cape Gracias-a-Dios to Grey town, is for 
the most part low and uninteresting, although in some 
places a spur of elevated land reaches quite to the 
sea, and diversifies the otherwise monotonous aspect by 
slight cliffy projections or headlands. In the interior, 
lofty mountains present themselves in two directions: 
those to the south, rising some 8000 to 10,000 feet 
above the sea, form the elevated lands of Costarica, 
while those to the north, which do not anywhere at- 
tain so great a height, terminate in a rich gold-bear- 
ing ridge, called Ch on tales, at about the fourteenth 
parallel. The interval between these mountain-ranges 
is occupied by the great transverse valley of the Nica- 
raguan lakes, and extends completely from the Gulf 
of Fonseca to the Caribbean Sea, the whole interven- 
ing land appearing to be of very moderate elevation. 
Numerous rivers, of more or less volume, intersect the 
country, but they all have a dangerous bar at their 
mouth, and are therefore only navigable for small craft. 
The banks of these rivers are thickly studded with 
patches of mahogany and cedar. For about twenty 
miles from their mouths the land is low, but beyond 
that distance it generally slopes away on savanas, dot- 
ted here and there with pine-clumps. The coast from 
Monkey Point to Cape Gracias-a-Dios is fringed with 
a series of lagoons lying parallel to the sea, and a 
canoe might pass from one end to the other of this 
interior navigation even in the dry season ; but in the 


wet season there is a very respectable channel, and the 
coast-line then has the appearance of a range of islands. 
This fact will be of great importance as affording 
cheap water transport when Mosqnito takes its proper 
position as a cotton-growing country, for which in all 
respects it is admirably adapted. The nature of the in- 
terior may be divided into three heads, for the sake of 
clearly describing it. (1.) The soil of the high wooded 
lands is the best, and is everywhere excellent, being 
either a black mould or rich brick clay. (2.) The low 
wooded ground is not so good, but is mostly chosen for 
plantations by the inhabitants from its proximity to 
their villages. (3). The savana lands are the worst. The 
soil is light sand, mixed with some rich mould. The 
swamps, or marshes, are very rich soil, and only require 
the trees upon them to be cut down to become most va- 
luable for rice. Cotton has been grown everywhere, on 
the worst land even ; the staple was remarkably good. 
Since the emancipation of the slaves, the plantations 
have gone to ruin. 

From Cape Gracias-a-Dios to Blewfields there are a 
great many islands and coral cays, but from Blewfields 
southward the sea is singularly free from any impedi- 
ment to navigation. The land is clothed to the water's 
edge with dense tropical vegetation, which gives it a 
very same appearance ; indeed, for miles on either side 
of Greytown the general aspect is so similar, that it is 
a difficult matter to distinguish the anchorage from 
any distance ; and ships, in spite of careful navigation, 
(the sky is overcast for weeks together in the rainy 
season,) frequently miss it, and, falling to leeward, take 



days to beat up against the wind and current.* There 
are no land-locked harbours worthy the name on the 
entire coast, and only one secure and protected anchor- 
age. At the time of the Discovery, Mosquito boasted 
three magnificent harbours, namely, Cape Gracias, Blew- 
fields, and Grey town. These harbours, situated at the 
respective mouths of the three great rivers of the coun- 
try, namely, the Wanks, the Escondido, and the San 
Juan, were formed by the enlargement of their out- 
lets into extensive lagoons, having each a deep channel 
seaward, affording an ample sheltered anchorage. In 
process of time these harbours silted up, Grey town 
being the last to succumb. Seventy years ago Nelson 
used that at Cape Gracias for his squadron ; it is now 
so shallow that only a very small schooner can enter. 
Blewfields was a favourite resort of the buccaneers, 
but at present a man-of-war's launch cannot cross the 
bar at all seasons; while Greytown, in 1860, only 
carried a depth of eleven feet over the entrance. 
The immense amount of mud and earth brought down 
by the rivers readily accounts for this gradual filling 
up; but the regular action in the case of Greytown 
has been hastened by an ill-judged interference with 
the natural causes. Obstructions have been placed 
in certain positions near the mouth of the river, with 

* Tke currents are governed almost entirely by the winds, which, being 
prevalent from the north-east, (trade wind,) almost invariably cause a 
south-going set of the water, often running as much as three miles an 
hour. An easterly wind has been known to cause a northerly flow, but a 
southerly wind is sure to turn the tide in the opposite, direction almost im- 
mediately after it springs up. The above rule holds good to the extent of 
thirty miles off shore, where a westerly current is met with the greater 
part of the year. 


a view to widen and deepen a favourite channel, but 
the wishes of the ignorant designers have not been real- 
ized; indeed, quite the contrary has been the result. 
The rapid accumulation of deposit has been startling, 
and hastened materially the choking up of the harbour. 
It is very doubtful if any engineering efforts could save 
it from shortly following the example of its northern 
neighbours, and becoming a shallow lagoon. In April, 
1860, I made a survey of the port, and, after reducing 
my work to the same scale as the Admiralty chart con- 
structed in 1853, I placed my own plan upon it in red 
ink ; the effect was to show at a glance the encroach- 
ments of the land and the difference in the depth of 
water. The sand-spit, which forms the outer enclosure 
of the harbour, had grown towards the mainland, and 
therefore narrowed the entrance two hundred yards ; 
whilst the deepest water I could obtain between the 
points was only twelve feet, and that not continuous 
across. This is a very rapid decrease when it is remem- 
bered that about two years before, the sailing frigate 
6 Eurydice ' went out of the place without any inconve- 
nience, taking a depth of at least twenty-four feet. The 
accompanying chart will, however, give the best idea of 
this remarkable instance of silting up. 

As the harbour was too shallow to admit the 'Gorgon,' 
we had to be content with the roadstead outside, — a 
by no means pleasant exchange. In the first place, the 
prevalent wind blows right on the land, making it a lee 
shore, whilst a swell tumbles in, and renders the anchor- 
age perhaps the most unquiet in the world. For example, 
I may mention the fact that her Majesty's ship under 

F 2 


my command on one occasion rolled so heavily that the 
cutter, hoisted close up to the davits, dipped under water, 
and was very nearly dragged bodily away from the ship's 
side, davits and all ; in short, there was a ceaseless mo- 
tion of many degrees, morning, noon, and night, enough 
to wear anything to pieces. Our boats suffered the 
most, as they were very seldom hoisted or lowered with- 
out some damage. Fortunately I was able to obtain a 
house on shore, which was called " Gorgon Villa," after 
the ship, and where both officers and men occasionally 
found quiet and rest. 

The following remarks on the climate apply chiefly 
to the Mosquito coast. The heat is never oppressive 
while the trade-wind blows, but during calms it is sultry 
and overpowering, although in a far less degree than is 
experienced in the West Indies. The climate is any- 
thing but unhealthy ; for during the five months I was 
stationed on the coast the average sick-list on board her 
Majesty's ship under my command only amounted to 
four, while not a single death occurred ; and other naval 
officers of much larger experience express the same opi- 
nion. But perhaps a better proof is given by the statistics 
of health amongst the Moravian missionaries, who have 
been established at all points of Mosquito for fourteen 
years, and during that period have not lost one of their 
number by death, neither has it been necessary to send 
one of them, man, woman, or child, to Europe to recruit. 
This last instance is most important testimony, and a 
stubborn fact in disproof of the repeated allegations 
made by ignorant persons of the unheal thin ess of the 


The prevailing type of disease appears to be a low 
form of intermittent fever, chiefly confined to Grey- 
town, which is built upon a swamp ; but that it is not of 
a deadly nature even there, is proved by the fact that 
our Consul-General has had it several times, without 
apparently any injury to his constitution. The months 
in which most sickness is felt are June and July; 
August also is considered sickly; but much depends 
upon the constitution and habits of the residents, and 
many a place has obtained a bad name from the fre- 
quent deaths amongst the disorderly, dissipated mem- 
bers of the community. January, February, March, and 
April, are considered the healthiest months. March and 
April are the hottest months. The thermometer seldom 
rises above 82° or falls below 71°; the temperature 
may therefore be called equable. Thunder is rarely 
heard between December and April. 

Mosquito is at present a rainy country, but the dense 
tropical vegetation probably causes the annual fall to be 
greater than in adjacent parts either entirely savana, or 
nearly treeless ; and, doubtless, as the face of the country 
is cleared, the rainfall will suffer a proportionate dimi- 
nution, as it has done at Rio Janeiro, St. Helena, and 
many other parts of the world. 

The following is a short monthly abstract of the usual 
weather met with on the coast : — 

January. — Strong breezes from E.N.E., N.E., and N.N.E. ; 
dry weather ; occasional showers, principally during the night. 
Northers may be looked for in this month, but are not common. 

February. — Squally weather, wind changes from N. to E. in 
sudden gusts ; this month is sometimes showery, the wind 
never shifts beyond N. or E. 


March. — Strong breezes from E.N.E. About the 20th the 
equinoctial gale from N. to N.W. may be expected, but it has 
been known as late as the 7th of April. It is, however, sure to 
come and blow with very great violence, generally for three 
days. The rain during the gale comes down in torrents, other- 
wise March is a dry month. 

April. — Light S.E. and S. winds with calms ; no rains. In 
this month the lagoons are very shallow, the river at this season 
being very low. Great quantities of fish are taken ; they come 
in shoals from the sea, which, owing to the lowness of the 
rivers, loses its muddy characteristics, and becomes a bright 
transparent green. 

May. — Calms ; dry weather ; winds very light and variable. 

June. — Yery heavy thunder and vivid lightning, with a de- 
luge of rain ; generally calm, but subject to violent squalls and 
sudden gusts. 

July. — The same as June, but varied by strong steady 
breezes from E.N.E. to N.E. 

August, — The same as the two preceding months, with the 
addition of very heavy squalls of short duration. 

September. — Calms and light variable winds ; thunder and 
lightning, with occasional rains. 

October. — The northers commence in this month generally 
about the 15th ; heavy northerly or north-north-easterly gales 
may be expected, with rain and squalls. Northers may be 
looked for at any time between October and March, sometimes 
even until April. During a wet north the weather is cold and 
thoroughly unpleasant, like a November day in England ; but 
should the north be a dry one, it is both healthy and invi- 
gorating, and looked upon as a great blessing by the inha- 

November. — Similar weather ; plenty of rain ; sometimes the 
trade-wind blows uninterruptedly, and the entire month passes 
without a norther. 

December. — Passing showers, the trade- wind blowing strongly 
occasionally interrupted by northers ; not veering to N.W. as 
usual, but remaining steady at N. 









J August. 


\ October. 





~ August. 

The rain descends 


a perfect 

•| October. 

deluge, accompanied some- 

Sometimes not a drop of rain 

times by dreadful 


falls, but generally in these 

and lightning. 

months the weather is like 
an English April, except 
that the rain- drops are 
heavy tropical ones. 

The signs of 



norther are as follows: — 

Dead calm, sea smooth as glass, tide very low on the 
shore ; northern horizon banked up with heavy clouds ; 
faint, bluish sheet-lightning. Before the north can 
come the N.E. trade-winds must be completely killed, 
to use a native expression; hence the calm. The above 
phenomenon will give from three to eight hours' warn- 
ing of the approach of the storm, during which time 
every preparation must be made, as the gale appears to 
come on at once and knocks up a tremendous sea im- 
mediately. At night the stars shine with great bril- 
liance, just as they do on a frosty night in high lati- 
tudes. The longest time a norther has been known to 
last is three days. The weather is generally clear and 
dry, parching up everything, but in a wet north the rain 
descends in torrents. 

The following passage from a memorial on the 
Mosquito shore, prepared by the Council of State for 


Jamaica, and transmitted to the Board of Trade and 
Plantations as early as 1773, might have been written at 
the present time : — " The climate of the Mosquito shore 
is milder than any of the West India islands, and the 
air is more salubrious ; the lands are everywhere well 
watered, and everywhere fertile. The soil is rich in an 
uncommon degree ; the necessaries, and even the luxu- 
ries of life, present themselves on all sides ; the rivers, 
lagoons, and sea, abound in excellent fish, and the 
coasts afford the greatest number of excellent turtle, 
both for food and the shell, of any country of equal extent 
in the world. The cotton-tree, cocoa, and vanilla flou- 
rish spontaneously, all over the country ; indigo too is 
a native, and seems to be the same with that of Guate- 
mala, which is accounted the best of any. The sugar- 
cane here arrives at as great perfection as in any of the 
islands, and of mahogany and sarsaparilla the quantity 
exported annually is so great as to render the settle- 
ments already an object of no small importance to the 
commerce of Great Britain, no less than 800,000 feet 
of the former, and 200,000 lb. of the latter, exclusive 
of 10,000 lb. of tortoise-shell, having been shipped to 
England in 1769. The banks of the rivers and lagoons 
are as equally well adapted to the growth of logwood as 
any part of Honduras, and we have reason to think that 
there is here enough to supply all Europe." 

To this account it may be interesting to add the list 
of present produce, viz. precious metals, cochineal, 
hides, sarsaparilla, indigo, hard woods (such as lignum- 
vitse, oak, etc.), mahogany, the pencil or Spanish ce- 
dar, dyewoods ; large forests of pitch-pine, containing 


much tar; India-rubber, sarsaparilla, balsam, copal, 
copaiba, sugar, vanilla, cotton, silk-grass, and no doubt 
many more valuable products, which will become known 
when the interior is a little more explored ; at present 
it has never been visited by any scientific traveller, 
although it affords a rich field for the naturalist. For 
domestic use there is the bark of the red-tree, used as 
tea by the mahogany cutters, breadfruit, cocoa-nuts, and 
plantains. The breadfruit requires at least four years 
from the slip before it bears fruit ; a solitary tree has 
two crops in the year, first from August to October, 
second in March and April ; but if a number of varie- 
ties are judiciously planted, there will be fruit every 
month in the year. The largest breadfruit I ever saw 
weighed thirteen pounds. Cocoa-nuts are most abun- 
dant : the tree bears fruit in rare instances at five years 
old, but the average is seven years, at which age it pro- 
duces about one hundred nuts per annum. The cocoa- 
nut-tree is perhaps the most wonderful production in 
nature : it affords to man meat and drink, clothes and 
shelter, and the means of locomotion on the water. 
There are all sorts of stock in abundance, wild hogs, 
deer, tapir, maniti, and quantities of turtle, all of which 
are procured by the natives with little or no trouble. 

The best season for shooting wild hogs is June and 
July, and for deer about December ; tapir and maniti are 
killed on the rivers during the whole year ; turtles, the 
flesh of which is nutritious food, while the shell is an 
article of commerce, are found in great numbers every- 
where on the coast. They lay in June, but continue to 
deposit eggs until the middle of October. About fifteen 


days after the eggs are buried in the sand, the young 
are hatched. Upwards of a hundred are secreted at one 
time. Unlike the other "great turtle depot, Ascension, 
both male and female turtles are taken on the coast of 
Mosquito. A male turtle has never been seen on the 
sands of Ascension. The flesh of the hawkbill variety 
is not much esteemed ; the shell, however, is very valu- 
able, and known as the tortoise-shell of commerce. This 
shell is not the upper shield or covering of the turtle, 
but only the scales, of which there are thirteen ; eight 
of them are flat, and five curved ; a large turtle will 
yield as much as six or seven pounds of scales, some- 
times a quarter of an inch in thickness. The turtle is 
not killed, or there would soon be an end of tortoise- 
shell, but he is fastened securely, and a fire of grass 
made on his back ; the scales separate at the joints, 
and are skinned off with a knife. There are many in- 
stances of the same turtle being caught a second time, 
but the outer coating is reproduced in one scale instead 
of thirteen. It would be very interesting to ascertain 
how long this scale is in process of formation. 

The earliest account of the natives of this part of 
the American continent is given by Fernando Columbus, 
son of the great navigator ; he describes them " as al- 
most negroes in colour, bestial, going naked, in all re- 
spects very rude, eating human flesh, and devouring 
their fish raw as they happen to catch them." This 
description cannot be called flattering, and was probably 
so highly coloured because the inhabitants offered so 
stubborn and successful a resistance to the Spaniards; 
at all events, be that as it may, from constant inter- 


course with the English, the natives of the present clay 
are very different creatures, and quite equal, if not su- 
perior, to their neighbours. 

The Mosquitos consist of two distinct races, the ab- 
origines and the descendants of the negroes formerly 
wrecked on the coast. The Valiente, Kama, Cookwra, 
Woolwa, Tonga, and Poya, aboriginal Indians, are all 
tributary to the King of Mosquito, and render him a 
cheerful and willing obedience, the more readily, per- 
haps, from the unanimous detestation in which they all 
hold anything of or belonging to Spain. Their numbers 
are small : probably the total amount of pure aboriginal 
natives does not exceed 20,000, but some thousands of 
Creoles, Caribs, and Sambos must be included, making 
up the population altogether to about 30,000. The 
Sambo is the result of a large admixture of the negro 
family amongst the aborigines of the Mosquito shore, 
the offspring of a number of male blacks wrecked from 
a slaver very many years ago. This dark element is a 
prominent feature in the population of the coast : it is 
now self-supporting, having been much stimulated by a 
large influx of escaped slaves. All trace of the Indian 
share in this family has now disappeared, and the woolly 
hair, thick lips, and flat nose, of the pure African, pre- 
vail in all their pristine vigour. 

Some writers have mistaken this hybrid people for 
the aboriginal, or at all events the predominant race, 
and describing their vices and customs, have occasioned 
a low estimate to be formed of the Mosquitos. One 
American writer in particular published a book called 
'Waikna,' which he doubtless wrote for "strategical" 


and diplomatic purposes — Samuel A. Bard (E. G. 
Squier), formerly charge d'affaires from the United 
States to Central America. The real possessors of the 
country are pure Indians, whose king must be of pure 
blood, and a direct descendant of those Caciques who 
have ruled the land from time immemorial. 

In appearance the aborigines are about the middle 
height, very swarthy complexion, long coarse black 
hair, good eyes, and thin lips ; the most remarkable 
feature is the nose, which is sharp, thin, and small, and 
looks more so from the cheek-bones being high. They 
do not think little of themselves, as is evidenced by 
their native appellation, " Waikna," man ;* but this con- 
ceit is not altogether unjustifiable, for they are brave, 
warlike, and about the best canoemen in the world. No 
weather stops them ; when a ship's boat could not ven- 
ture to sea, they go off without the smallest hesitation ; 
indeed they seem to be amphibious. When death oc- 
curs, they burn everything belonging to the deceased, 
and even cut down his fruit-trees ; the grave is guarded 
with the greatest care, but the memory of the departed 
is not cherished ; on the contrary, any mention of him 
is considered the greatest offence. The wife or wives 
(polygamy is allowed, although not common) cut off 
their long hair, from a feeling that no one ought to 
touch what their lord and master delighted to handle. 

* This is a common practice of the aborigines of America, from the 
Arctic to the Antarctic regions ; for example, the Esquimaux call them- 
selves "Innuit," men, par excellence; and, travelling southward, the 
custom exists amongst the Apaches, the Athapascans, and other tribes, 
until the southern part of America is reached, where it is found amongst 
the Araucanians. 


The men test their endurance by bending down and 
seeing how many blows they can endure ; and many of 
them suffer a perfect martyrdom of flogging without a 
groan. Intoxication is common at certain seasons, a 
custom in repute amongst their forefathers long before 
the Discovery. The liquor is made from cassava, in 
the same manner as Cook found the Sandwich and 
other South Sea Islanders making ava or kava ; it is 
chewed by the women, after boiling the roots; about 
one-third is chewed, the rest pounded; then hot water 
and cane-juice is poured upon it, and after two days' 
fermentation it is ready. It looks like buttermilk, and 
is sour, but very strong.* Fermented cane-juice, or 

* Can there be any philological connection between the American terms 
" Cassava " or " Kasava " and the Polynesian " Kava " or '" Ava," sup- 
posed to be derived from the Sanscrit " Kasya " (intoxicating beverages) ? 
Strange to add, preparing an intoxicating liquor from the cassava, or 
yuka, {Manihot Aipi, Pohl,) is also practised in the interior of Peru, 
where the Indians call it " Masato." Antonio Eaimondy, in his ' Apuntes 
sobre la Provincia litoral de Loreto,' (Lima, 1862, page 132), gives a cir- 
cumstantial account of it which, from its ethnological importance, may here 
be translated and ought to be compared with the description of the pre- 
paration of kava furnished by Dr. Seemann in his ' Viti,' (London, 1862,) 
page 327 : " In order to get an idea of the way in which this beverage 
masato) is prepared, it is necessary to enter for a moment one of the 
great houses of the heathens of Ucayali on the eve of a great festival. On 
one side are seen several half-naked women seated on the floor around a 
heap of yucas, and occupied in pealing the skin off them. On the other 
side is a woman busy in putting the cleaned roots in a pot large enough 
for a man to fall into. After this has been done, a small quantity of water 
is put in the pot, the yucas are covered over with leaves, and then boiled. 
"When boiled they are mashed. . . . Advanced to this state they proceed 
to the most important, and at the same time most disgusting, operation. 
The women, and in some instances the men also, sit down once more in a 
circle around the mashed yucas, taking large handfuls of it in their 
mouths, which they chew without swallowing until completely saturated 
with saliva and almost become liquid. In this state the filthy mass is spit 
out, and the operation repeated until the required quantity is prepared. 


pine-apple juice, is also in much request: it need hardly 
be said that each of these drinks is very intoxicating. 
Amongst the Indians living about the head-waters of 
the rivers, there are one or two tribes which still pre- 
serve the custom of flattening the heads of their chil- 
dren, just like the Flathead tribe in British Columbia ; 
they are much fairer than their brethren inhabiting the 
low lands of the coast, and some of their women are 
almost white. They are a slow, stolid race, peaceably 
inclined towards the English, and no doubt they would 
afford every assistance to a traveller desiring to explore 
their country. 

The Mosquito Indians have earned a well-deserved 
character for the scrupulous exactness with which they 
fulfil their engagements ; they will endure any hardship, 
and work well, if only properly treated. Each village 
has its head man, who is responsible to the king, to 
whom all grave matters are referred. There are no re- 
gular taxes, but every year canoes, tortoise-shell, provi- 
sions, and various valuable products, are presented to 

Morality, it must be confessed, is not a native virtue : 
the punishment for adultery was the infliction of a 
sound beating to the wife, and the exaction of a certain 
payment from the other delinquent : but a great change 

After this a small portion of mashed yuca is mixed and kneaded with the 
chewed mass and then put into pots, which are covered np till fermenta- 
tion sets in. The saliva contained in the mashed yuca produces fermen- 
tation, changes the starch into sugar, and the sugar into alcohol — a process 
which, according to the state of the temperature and the existing quantity 
of saliva, takes place in two, three, or four days. This fermented mass 
accompanies the Indians on all their journeys. When wishing to prepare 
from it their disgusting beverage it is dissolved with a little water." 


for the better has come over the people within the 
last few years, owing to the missionary efforts of the 
church of the United Brethren, or Moravians, which 
commenced in 1848. Their first station was esta- 
blished in the town of Blewfields, to the population of 
which, consisting chiefly of so-called " Creoles " with 
but few Indians, the labours of the missionaries were, 
with the exception of occasional visits to the more dis- 
tant settlements, almost entirely limited for some years. 
Subsequently, however, a footing was obtained on other 
parts of the coast, and among the pure Indian popula- 
tion. A station which was in course of establishment 
at Cape Gracias-a-Dios was necessarily abandoned, in 
consequence of the anarchy prevailing at the time of 
the transfer of that part of the coast to the Republic of 
Honduras (1860-61). The stations at present occupied 
are the following : — 

1. Blewfields, where a congregation of 198 persons is 
under the direct care of the missionaries. These are 
chiefly " Creoles." 

2. Bamah: 152 persons, pure Indians of the Rama 
tribe. It is on the Rama Cay in Blewfields Lagoon. 

3. Magdala: 157 persons, pure Indians, mostly Mos- 
quito s and Woolwas. It is situated in Pearl Cay La- 

4. Joppa : 33 persons, Creoles, on Corn Island, about 
fifty miles north-north-east from Blewfields. 

5. Ephrata : only two persons under regular instruc- 
tion, as the station is quite new. It is on the Wounta 
Haulover, a narrow strip of land, between the main 
ocean and the Wounta Lagoon. A considerable number 


of Indian settlements are accessible from this point. By 
recent returns there are 542 persons under the care of 
the missionaries, not including occasional hearers, eight 
day-schools with 245 scholars, and one school for the 
training of Indian boys for future usefulness as teachers, 

The English language is taught in all the schools. 
The Indians use various native dialects, but can all un- 
derstand the Mosquito, the language of the most in- 
fluential tribe. In this language the missionaries have 
prepared several elementary works for use in the schools. 
The labours of the missionaries have been attended 
with encouraging results. At the four older stations, 
there are congregations arranged and conducted on 
Christian principles, with regular divine worship, and 
the administration of the sacraments, besides those 
more individual means of instruction which form so 
important a feature in the missionary system of the 
Brethren's Church. 

As regards that external improvement which is the 
unfailing result of the diffusion of Christian principles, 
it is evident that it is by no means lacking among the 
christianized inhabitants of this coast. Eye-witnesses 
speak of the village of Eamah as affording a striking 
specimen of a well-arranged Christian settlement, 
though its inhabitants were, but a few years since, no- 
torious for their drunkenness and their bloody feuds. 
Yet progress in respect to domestic habits and the ame- 
nities of civilized life must be gradual ; and still more 
must this be the case with the development of an indus- 
trious, enterprising spirit, which will lead to a more 


careful improvement of the resources of the country. 
In this latter respect something has been done by the 
planting of cocoa-nuts, and the like. It is also intended 
to furnish presses, to extract the oil of the cocoa-nut in 
a more speedy and profitable manner than the rude 
process employed by the natives, while it is hoped that 
a small saw-mill may render it possible to make use of 
the vast quantities of timber in the forests. In these 
and similar ways, a stimulus may be given to continuous 
industry, and the fruits of the Gospel, even in tempo- 
ral prosperity, may be as manifest in Central America, 
as they have been in South Africa and elsewhere. 

The usefulness of the missions on the coast of Mos- 
quito appears to have received a heavy blow from the 
abandonment of the protectorate of that country by 
England. In the following extracts the missionaries 
speak for themselves : — 

" Blewfields, March 14th, 1861. 
" My position, under the present political circumstances of 
the country, is peculiarly difficult. Foresight must almost as- 
sume the character of prophecy, in order to determine with any 
degree of certainty what the events of the immediate future 
may be. Communication is slow and imperfect here. All we 
can attain to are suggestions and suppositions, which frequently 
prove futile, almost as soon as they are made. This was very 
much the case with regard to our settlement at the Cape. The 
king and the consul entertained no doubt, that all the Indians 
living north of the present Mosquito boundary would imme- 
diately remove within its limits, being quite averse to Spanish 
rule. Hence we deemed it expedient to commence at Wounta 
without delay. Now, however, it is pretty clear, that the 
Indians are determined to hold their ancient possessions, as 
their former warlike spirit is aroused. If Honduras or Nicara- 
gua undertakes to molest them, they will defend their rights 



most desperately ; and there is little doubt, if the conflicting 
parties are left to themselves, whose the victory will be. There 
are some here who believe that the treaty, though ratified, will 
come to nothing at last. 

" By the accounts from the Cape [Gracias-d-Dios] it appears, 
that the Indians are very sorry that the Gospel is to be taken 
away from them. Yet it is a question whether it is advisable to 
endeavour to retain a footing there. At all events Br. Kandler 
cannot leave at once. The Cape is the central point of the 
Mosquito Coast, more than one-half of the Indian population 
being settled to the northward of it, while in the immediate 
neighbourhood there are numerous settlements.. 

" Kama, June 4th, 1861. 

c ' Ever since England gave up the protectorate of the Mos- 
quito Coast, I have been apprehensive as to what would become 
of our Mission. It now appears as if the light which was just 
commencing to shine was to be trodden underfoot. On the 
10th of May, I was alarmed by the report that there was a 
Eomish priest in the place, who had come to baptize the people. 
I really did not know what to do, as there are still a number 
not baptized. However, there was present help in Him that is 
mighty. When the brother in whose house the priest had 
taken up his lodging came home from his work, the priest 
asked if he was baptized, to which he replied that he was, and 
that the people here had a minister, who had come from beyond 
the great ocean, and wanted no other. Upon this the priest 
said he was sorry, and went away. Subsequently, two persons 
went to Blewfields, and were baptized. It is no wonder that 
the people ran after him, as he said nothing to them about 
their sins. I fear there will soon be Roman Catholic churches 
at many places, and I have been told that the priest had said 
that we should then have to leave the country. What will be- 
come of the Mission, and of all the dear people who have 
learned to read their Bibles ? 

"June 11th, 1861. 

" On my return home, I heard to my grief, that, in my ab- 
sence, a Spanish priest had been here, baptizing all who came 


to hhn. About 150, old and young, including some who have 
attended our church, where deceived by him. He told the ma- 
gistrates, that he was sent by the Governments of Nicaragua 
and Honduras to baptize all the Indians on the coast. Thus 
we see what measures these republics adopt to ensure their 
success among these people ! But we will trust in the Lord's 
outstretched arm, which must prevail over His enemies. May 
He grant us grace and boldness to make known His everlasting 
Gospel without fear ! If we should leave the Cape at this junc- 
ture, the priests will suppose we are afraid of them, which I 
think we ought not to give them occasion to do. 

" We are sorry that England has given up the protectorate 
of the Mosquito Territory. We see that it is better to trust in 
the Lord than to put confidence in man. The Eomish Church 
in Nicaragua is now doing its utmost to make proselytes, and 
to destroy our work, if possible. Last week, a Spanish priest 
was here, sent by the bishop to baptize every one who comes 
in his way, without any instruction. Here, the people would 
not go to him, saying that they had a minister already. But at 
the Indian villages, he called the poor ignorant people together, 
and, by the present of a large piece of tobacco to each, induced 
them to consent to his baptism. 

" On the 12th and 13th of October, 1861, in the presence and 
by the direction of her Majesty's Consul, the new system was 
established in the king's name. There are to be a general and 
an executive council, of which the king, under the title of He- 
reditary Chief, is to be the president, with an annual allowance 
of fifteen hundred dollars. The majority of the members of 
these councils are either pure Indians or half-breeds. The 
English laws are to be those of this land. Whether the British 
Government will insist on payment of the compensation agreed 
to by the republics of Honduras and Nicaragua, time will show. 
But I should think England will feel herself in honour bound to 
compel those republics to fulfil their engagments, according to 
the terms of the treaty." 

" Blewfields, November, 1861. 
" On the 12th and 13th instant, the new constitution was 

G 2 


established in the king's name, consisting of a genera 1 and an 
executive council, the king being president of both. The ma- 
jority of the members are either whole or half Indians. The laws 
of England are to be the laws of the land. The king, under 
the title of Hereditary Chief, is to receive an annual stipend of 
$1500. Whether the English Government will see to it, that 
this compensation is duly paid by Honduras and Nicaragua, 
time will show. I should think, however, that England would 
feel herself bound in honour to compel these republics to fuitil 
their engagements, according to the tenor of the treaty. 

" Three legal members have been nominated for both councils, 
Mr. Green, myself, and Mr. Booth. Three other officers were 
likewise chosen, a Secretary, a Treasurer and Eeceiver- General, 
and the Chief Justice of the second office : I was urged to accept, 
and at length did so, though with much hesitation. Mr. Green 
is shortly expected, and intends to make Blewfields his permanent 
place of abode. I trust that the carrying out of these plans 
will tend to counteract the proceedings of disaffected and mis- 
chievous people." 

" Blewfields, February 5th, 1862. 

" As regards the present government, and the political cir- 
cumstances of this country, it is hard to say what the king's 
real relation to Nicaragua is. If our interpretation of the treaty 
is adopted by the British Government, he is still, in some 
measure, independent, as Nicaragua is not to interfere with in- 
ternal arrangements, or with the produce of the land ; while 
the king, on his part, undertakes not to sell or cede the terri- 
tory to any other nation. 

" As regards the administration of internal affairs, the ad- 
visory members of the council, and particularly the Consul, are 
to direct the working of the machinery, and, if let alone, all 
will do well." 

"Blewfields, August 9th, 1862. 
' ' In reference to the political state of this poor country, I 
have but very feeble hopes for good ; for the English Govern- 
ment has no interest either one way or the other, which Nica- 


ragua or Honduras, observing, will spare no trouble to turn to 
their own benefit ; they will advance inch by inch, and even- 
tually take it as a matter of course, and England, as explaining 
it as an arrangement of necessity, will wink at it. I therefore 
scarcely think that the presence and co-operation of the Consul 
will avert the blow, for, as her Britannic Majesty's servant, he 
must adopt the ever-changing views of her Government." 

It will now be necessary, before concluding my account 
of Mosquito, to give a general description of the vari- 
ous settlements of importance on the coast and adjacent 
islands, namely, at Corn Islands, Pearl Cay Lagoon, 
Blewfields, and Greytown. There are, besides, several 
minor establishments, such as Cape Gracias-a-Dios, 
where numbers of cattle are raised and some commerce 
carried on, Grand BAver, and Pearl Cay Islands, whence 
cocoa-nuts, etc. etc., are exported, and in each place 
there have been English settlers for many years. 


The Corn Islands are two in number, called Great and 
Little ; they are both moderately high and very pictu- 
resque, the beach fringed with cocoanut-trees, and the 
high land with avenues of the magnificent breadfruit- 
tree, whilst orange and lime-trees abound in every direc- 
tion. A coral-reef nearly surrounds each, and makes it 
necessary to approach with care and caution. There is 
a very fair anchorage on the lee side of either island, in 
about five fathoms water. 

The Great island, which, by the bye, simply affords a 
pleasant walk all round it, and is not, therefore, very 
great, is peopled by about 200 Creoles and Negroes. 


Their language is English, and they have a small por- 
tion of land under cultivation ; sufficient however, such 
is the richness of the soil, not only to supply their own 
wants, but to afford a large amount of stock to vessels 
calling. Bullocks, pigs, goats, fowls, ducks, turkeys, and 
a great variety of fruit and vegetables, can always be 
procured. Cotton of the finest sort was at one time ex- 
ported in considerable quantities ; but since the eman- 
cipation of the negroes, effected here as summarily as 
elsewhere, all commercial enterprise has ceased, if a 
very small trade in cocoa-nuts be excepted. 

The story of the emancipation of the negroes at the 
Corn Islands is best told in the words of a memorial ad- 
dressed to the English Consul by the Creole residents 
of English descent, and a copy of which they placed in 
my hands : — 


" To James Green, Esq., H.B.M/s Consul in Mosquito, 
and agent to his Majesty the King of Mosquito : The 
respectful memorial of the undersigned, formerly pro- 
prietors and the heirs of proprietors of the emancipated 
slaves of Corn Island, 
" Humbly represents, 

(c That your petitioners have long and patiently laboured 
under many painful difficulties, the consequence of having 
been suddenly and unexpectedly dispossessed of their slaves ; 
no notice whatever being given them, to prepare for the 
event which involved the greater part, to a great extent, in 
utter destitution, nor has their case been ameliorated by the re- 
ceipt of a single payment of any part of the compensation pro- 
mised them at the time of manumission. 

" Your petitioners humbly presume that you are already in 
possession of the well-known fact, that the emancipator of said 


slaves was Colonel (now General) Macdonald, a British officer, 
who on the 27th day of August, a.d. 1841, caused them to be 
assembled on South-west Bay, and did then and there publicly 
pronounce them free, in the name of H.B.M. Queen Victoria 
and the King of Mosquito, and at the same time openly de- 
clared and proclaimed that the following compensation would 
be paid the owners, viz. — 

" The proprietors of the slaves now emancipated shall respec- 
tively receive for each the sum of £25, which will be paid in 
yearly instalments, with interest thereon, until the amount be 
fully discharged. 

" Your petitioners, some of them British-born subjects, the 
others the immediate descendants of such, loyally attached to 
H.M.'s person and government, would further respectfully 
state, that they were inspired with the most flattering hopes 
when a British Consul first became resident in Mosquito, and 
confidently hoped that through such an authority, justice would 
be speedily, or at least eventually, awarded them. They still 
hope and expect that this will be the case, and further state 
that your predecessors in office, Messrs. Christie and Walker, 
did each, throughout the period of his superintendence, hold 
out encouraging hopes, that the compensation overdue would 
yet be forthcoming. The former also settled the rate of the 
interest above mentioned, at four per cent, per annum, to be 
paid from the date of manumission to the time that the prin- 
cipal could be fully liquidated. 

" Your petitioners therefore earnestly entreat, that as duties are 
now being levied at this island, and rent being paid the Govern- 
ment for the Little Corn Island, you will please to take into 
your earnest consideration the expediency of appropriating 
such part of the same, or other government funds or revenue, 
as you may deem proper, to the liquidating of the said govern- 
ment debt, so long due to them. 

" And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. 

"March 1, 1853. A true copy attested. 

(Signed) "James Bowden, Chief Magistrate." 




of Slaves. 

No. of Slaves 

James Bowden . 


Lydia Brown 


James N. Bowden . 

John Hooker 


John Bowden . 

. . 10 

Margaret Hooker . 

Michael Quin . 


Susan Hooker . 

► 5 

Patrick Quin 

Amelia Hooker . 

John Quin 


Janette Hooker 

Catherine Quin . 

Christopher Dowries . 


Mary Quin 

Elizabeth Cottrell . 


Margaret Quin . 

Eleanor Culver . . . 


Maria E. Forbes 

. . 1 

Escalona Nansank "] 

Eleanor Frances 

. 2 

Caroline Nansank . J 

Joseph M. Nansan] 

z . 


Total, slaves 


This petition, when I left the coast, still remained, un- 
attended to ; indeed, I would not give much for the 
islanders' chance of payment. It is simply a case of 
petty larceny, and the victims must console themselves 
with this reflection, that they have plenty of brothers 
in affliction — to wit, soldiers and sailors who cannot get 
their prize-money. For — 

" To beg, or to borrow, or even to get your own, 
It is the very worst world that ever was known." 

I had the curiosity to question the ex-slaves on the 
matter of their freedom, and found them unanimously 
of opinion that their condition whilst in slavery was pre- 
ferable to their present state; it was all very pleasant to 
lie about in the sun while they were in health, but when 
sickness or age overtook them, no one cared the least 
whether they died like dogs or not. The truth is, that 
the Negro is quite unfit to be left to himself, anywhere 
out of his own land ; when freed from all restraint, he 
becomes a burden to himself and to his neighbours. 


Little Corn Island is chiefly grazing-land, and affords 
excellent pasturage for herds of cattle, which however 
are not bred on the island, but imported from Cape 
Gracias-a-Dios. The channel between the Great and 
Little Island is about six miles broad, and is deep and 
safe. About twenty of the Great Corn Islanders gene- 
rally live on the Little Island to look after the cattle, 
collect cocoa-nuts, and pick guava, of which great quan- 
tities grow wild on the south side, and prove excellent 
food for pigs. Its scenery is still more pretty than that 
of the Great Island, and its healthiness is proverbial ; 
the few cases of sickness which occur may be traced to 
imprudent exposure to the weather. In short, I was 
delighted with the Corn Islands. Their salubrity and 
charming scenery, as well as the abundant supply of 
fresh meat, fruit, vegetables, lobsters, fish, and turtle, 
which can always be obtained, will make their vicinity 
to the future railway most valuable to those employed 
upon the works, whenever change and recreation may be 
deemed desirable. As a sanatorium, the Corn Islands 
will be invaluable, and I have already made certain 
arrangements to ensure their full usefulness. 

Great Corn Island is in lat. 12° 13' N., long. 82° 10'. W. 
The anchorage is on a sandy bottom in about 5 fathoms, 
and the water is so clear that all the coral dangers can 
be plainly seen. The distance from Pearl Cay Lagoon 
is 34 miles, from Blewfields 38 miles, from Gorgon Bay 
52 miles, and from Grey town 82 miles. There is only 
one shoal of any consequence in the vicinity ; it is called 
the Blowing Bock, and is eight miles south from Great 
Corn Island. 



My description of Pearl Cay Lagoon will not be so 
glowing as that of Corn Islands. In the first place, the 
i nchorage for large ships is a long way off the entrance, 
owing to the shallowness of the water ; the coast is 
very flat and same, without any prominent feature to 
distinguish it. The lagoon is very extensive, reaching 
as much as twenty miles from its mouth ; the bar has 
only eight feet upon it and breaks, except in fine wea- 
ther ; at the spring, there is a rise and fall of two feet, 
H. W., F. and C. Ih. 45m. The lagoon is full of shoals, 
averaging but little more than a fathom in depth over 
its entire extent. The settlement is simply a collec- 
tion of wooden houses, imported from the "States," and 
placed in a straggling line along the borders of the la- 
goon at the opposite extreme from the entrance. The 
surrounding scenery is most uninteresting ; wherever you 
turn, dense primaeval forest meets the eye, fringed at 
the water's edge by the everlasting mangrove. The in- 
habitants number about 500 ; an excellent Moravian 
missionary, by name Lundberg, dwells amongst them, 
who acts as magistrate as well as pastor ; his church is 
very pretty, and forms a pleasing addition to the town 
buildings. All sorts of stock, fruit, and vegetables can 
be procured here, and excellent oysters abound in the 
lagoon ; but from the distance between the village and 
the anchorage the place is but very little resorted to. I 
had heard especially of the cheapness of the fowls, and 
accordingly purchased six or seven dozen for distribution 
amongst the hungry squadron at Greytown ; but during 

£3 WISE AND £600 FOOLISH. . 91 

the long pull off to the ship, for the most part against 
a fresh trade-wind, a large proportion of my unfortunate 
live-stock, nearly two dozen, found a watery grave in the 
bottom of the boat, so that my American friends at Grey- 
town had but a Flemish account of what would have 
been a most acceptable present to them. The Pearl Cays 
lie within a few miles of the Lagoon ; there are a good 
many of them, but the principal are Askill, Crawl, Grape, 
Baboon, Lime, andWater Cays. Three of these have been 
purchased by a Mr. Thompson (American), one by Mr. 
Kirkland, and one by Mr. Taylor. The Cays are a favour- 
ite resort of turtle, and great numbers are caught in the 
vicinity. Mr. Thompson has cleared his three Cays and 
planted them with cocoa-nuts, by which he expects to 
realize a good income. There is deep water between the 
Cays, but the navigation should not be attempted with- 
out good local knowledge. Mr. Quin, of Corn Island, 
late pilot of H.M.S. Orion, 91 guns, safely conducted 
the Gorgon through this dangerous locality.* He pro- 
bably saved the Government a false keel and some sheets 
of copper; nevertheless his charge of £6 was objected 
to, and I received an intimation from the Admiralty that 
half that sum would be mulcted from my pay, which 
was accordingly done. 


Blewfields Lagoon is about twenty miles south of 
Pearl Cay ; it is far more picturesque, but not quite so 
large, though rather deeper ; the anchorage outside also 

* H.M.S. Racer had got on shore shortly before our visit, and her re- 
pairs at the Havana cost our Government £600. 


is much better, and more easily distinguishable, Blew- 
fields Bluff being quite a conspicuous object. The bar 
is by no means so dangerous ; indeed, small schooners 
drawing seven feet can enter with safety in moderate 
weather. Like Pearl Cay, there is abundance of stock 
of all sorts, sufficient for ten times the population. 
Oysters also are found in profusion. The settlement, 
which is of course considerably larger than Pearl Cay, 
is also situated at the top of the Lagoon, at the further 
extremity from the entrance, and is close down to the 
edge of the water. The flood-tide only runs three 
hours ; same rise and fall as Pearl Cay, H. W. lh. 50m. 
There is a good church and schoolrooms, under the 
superintendence of Pastor G. Feurig, assisted by two 
other Moravian brethren, whose influence for good is 
very perceptible. The inhabitants I should estimate at 
about 1000 souls, — a very mixed population of Indians, 
Sambos, Negroes, English, and Creoles. English is al- 
most universally spoken, although, of course, Mosquito 
is the language of the country. The Lagoon is rapidly 
filling up ; many of the present inhabitants remember, 
as a large expanse of water, what is now dense man- 
grove bush. The quantity of mud brought down by 
the river Escondido is the principal cause of this rapid 
silting. Large quantities of mahogany grow in the 
vicinity of the river, principally on the banks of the 
small tributaries; and it is here that the mahogany 
trade has, for the present, reached its southern limit, 
although, no doubt, there are many cuttings on the 
banks of the Rama River, a few miles south of Gorgon 
Bay. The houses are all built of wood, the material 


for which is imported from the States at a very cheap 
rate, cheaper by far than they could be built for in the 
country. The king's house is the best in the place, 
and is a most comfortable habitation ; it is substantially 
built, but plain, and is situated on some slightly rising 
ground to the southward of the town. His Majesty 
resides at Blewfields about half the year; during the 
other six months he travels from one end of his country 
to the other. 

In this place it may not be uninteresting to give a 
description of the ruler of a country which has attracted 
so much attention of late years ; the more especially as 
so much misconception appears to exist about him, 
chiefly traceable to certain American publications. His 
Majesty then is a Mosquito Indian of pure blood, in 
direct descent from a long line of regal ancestors. He 
is rather below the middle height, with a swarthy com- 
plexion, though much fairer than the generality of his 
countrymen; his face is flat, cheekbones high, nose 
small and thin (a characteristic of his race), hair jet- 
black and fine, no beard or moustache. His counte- 
nance is expressive and intelligent, giving the idea of a 
good heart; he is thoroughly English in his habits, 
thoughts, and dress, and having received a first-rate 
education at Jamaica, and been brought up under excel- 
lent tutors, he considers English his proper language ; 
in short, although he may have faults, the impression 
he makes is that of a thorough English gentleman. 
His costume is that of a yachting man in the season, 
and his great delight is in sailing about in a canoe, 
which he manages with the accustomed dexterity of his 


countrymen. He is a very active man, not yet thirty, 
and still in a state of single blessedness ; and, what is 
more, the damsels of Mosquito do not seem likely ever 
to make an impression upon his heart. I advised him 
to come to this country, and try his fortune in perhaps 
the finest matrimonial market in the world. 

His mother and two sisters also live at Blewfields, 
but at some distance from the king's residence. His 
Majesty introduced me to them; and I found the 
queen-dowager, a singularly firm and upright old lady, 
much taller than the generality of her countrywomen. 
She was very plainly and neatly dressed, as also her 
daughters, who closely resembled their mother. Th y 
have not received any education beyond that obtainable 
in Mosquito, but nevertheless seemed to exercise con- 
siderable influence over their kingly relative ; indeed, 
it appeared to me that, although by no means houris, 
their position was far superior to that of their sisterhood 
in Turkey. The dresses of the princesses were not re- 
markable either for elegance or pattern ; the puckers or 
gathers were few and far between; indeed, the ladies 
appeared straight up and down, like " a yard of pump- 
water." I thought of the full skirting of our ladies at 
home, and could not resist speaking, through the me- 
dium of his Majesty as interpreter, of the utility and 
elegance of a certain article of dress much in request 
in my own country. The youngest princess, however, 
with charming naivete, remarked that one garment was 
quite enough in their country, and that the addition of 
another would be a burden grievous to be borne. I 
eagerly rejoined that she could not have the least idea 


of the light bird-cage airiness of the garment in ques- 
tion, if she looked upon it as a burden. After a little 
more conversation on this interesting topic, upon which 
I became quite confidential, we adjourned to the king's 
residence, where a plentiful dinner was served quite 
in the English style — plates, knives, forks, etc., all of 
English make. 

This was my first introduction to Mosquitian royalty, 
and I must confess myself pleased with all I saw or 
heard. His Majesty's residence is a large American 
lumber house, most tastefully built in the villa style 
with a capital verandah, and well fitted up. His sanc- 
tum contains a very good collection of books by some 
of our best authors. The grounds are enclosed by a 
substantial railing, within which cocoa-nut, breadfruit, 
orange, lime, cacao — indeed, all sorts of fruit-trees flou- 
rish with tropical luxuriance and hide the house from 
the land side. From the water the scene is very pretty. 
The house, perched on a small plot of rising ground 
close to the edge of the Lagoon, and backed by the 
luxuriant foliage, has quite a charming appearance. Se- 
veral natives of the better class seemed to be always ho- 
vering about the vicinity of the house, but the king is 
seldom attended by any one except his body-servant, a 
tall, powerful Sambo, and is never addressed as 'Your 
Majesty,' but by both subjects and strangers as ' King/ 
1 ought to mention that in disposition his Majesty is 
most quiet and inoffensive, although his power is abso- 
lute over his subjects, who implicitly obey his slightest 
order, as I can personally testify. There seems to be but 
one feeling throughout Mosquito about their neighbours 


the Nicaraguans ; the detestation is as great as it ever 
was, and the Nicaraguans will have plenty to do if 
they attempt in any way to coerce the Mosquitians. The 
present king, George Frederick, succeeded his father, 
Robert Charles, in 1848. I had more than one opportu- 
nity of observing his character when my guest on board 
the ' Gorgon,' and can truly say that his good qualities 
predominate over the bad ones to a great extent. 

A description of Greytown has already been given ; 
it therefore only remains to add, that when 1 left, in 
April, 1860, the town probably numbered about one 
hundred houses, with an average of five inmates in each. 
A noticeable feature in the place is the absence of any 
sort of church, of any denomination. Efforts, however, 
were being made to complete a small wooden shanty for 
religious purposes. Nothing can be said in extenua- 
tion of this indifference. Poverty certainly cannot be 
pleaded — although the place is rapidly declining — for 
Greytown boasts a good masonic lodge and even thea- 
trical entertainments, each of which are more costly 
than good church accommodation would have amounted 
to. The houses are, without exception, of wood imported 
from "the States," easily taken to pieces ; so that I should 
not be surprised, at no very distant day, if the site of the 
present town entirely disappeared : it only wants the con- 
viction that the transit at Greytown is played out, to 
cause a general migration. 

The town has never recovered the wholesale destruc- 
tion caused by Commander Hollins, U.S. corvette Cyane, 
who first bombarded and then landed his men and burnt it 
to the ground. Some conception of the atrocity of this 

an American's views on greytown. 97 

act may be formed by reading the following quotation 
from an American author, whose prejudices and party 
views doubtless made him put the best face on the 
matter, but who nevertheless was compelled to condemn 
the act. 

" Its (Greytown's) prosperity was much retarded by 
a dispute with the adventurers into whose hands the 
transit had fallen, producing an irritation of feeling 
which resulted in certain alleged insults on the part of 
the town to an American diplomatic agent, whose belli- 
gerent tendencies led him to interfere in matters quite 
beyond the sphere of his duties. An American vessel 
of war was sent to inquire into the circumstances of the 
case. Her commander, acting under improper influ- 
ences, assumed a most offensive and hostile attitude to- 
ward the town, and made various arrogant demands, 
which were not complied with, whereupon he bom- 
barded the place, and, landing a force of marines, burned 
it to the ground. The annals of this century furnish no 
parallel to this wanton and cruel procedure, and it 
stands a lasting disgrace and infamy to all concerned. 
It is certain that no such act was contemplated by the 
American Government; but, as it retained the delin- 
quent officer in its service, and did not formally disavow 
the deed, it must be held to share the odium consequent 
upon it." 

Viewing the above quotation by the light we have 
now to guide us regarding American writing, we may 
put the destruction of Greytown down as a dark deed, 
deserving condign punishment. One is at a loss to 
conceive how an officer could be found to perpetrate so 



cowardly and brutal an act, and how our own Govern- 
ment could allow the matter to pass unnoticed and not 
even demand compensation for the sufferers. 

In winding up this general account of Central Ame- 
rica, I shall place before the reader, in a tabular form, 
the areas and populations of the various places described, 
and the sum total of the whole. 


Square Miles. Population. 

Isthmus of Panama 34,000 129,000 

Mexican Provinces (Yucatan and Chiapas) . 92,000 800,000 

Costarica 25,000 135,000 

Nicaragua 30,000 300,000 

Honduras 40,000 350,000 

San Salvador . . .... . 11,400 290,000 

Guatemala 60,000 800,000 

Belize ........ 9,600 25,000 

Mosquito Territory 4,000 30,000 

Central America 305,500 2,859,000 

Central America therefore contains an area of about 
300,000 square miles, and is nearly equal in extent to 
England and France together. The average population 
is rather more than nine to the square mile. 





I shall now detail the various schemes of transit by 
canal which have from time to time been proposed at 
and between Tehuantepec and Darien. 

In little more than ten years after the first settlement 
was formed by Columbus, the Isthmus of Panama was 
successfully crossed by Vasco Nunez de Balboa (Septem- 
ber, 1513), who, rushing up to his breast in the water 
of the Pacific, took possession of that mighty ocean in 
the name of his master, the King of Spain. From that 
period the outline of the Pacific coast, both to the north 
and south, was rapidly delineated on the charts, and a 
glance was sufficient to show how narrow a strip of land 
intervened at more than one point between the two 
oceans. Hence arose the desire to find a practicable 
route from sea to sea; and as commerce and coloniza- 
tion increased, doubtless every effort was made by the 
early conquerors and their followers to discover such an 
opening, but entirely without success as regards a water 

h 2 


passage.* Owing to the extraordinary jealousy of the 
mother-country, but little has ever transpired as to the 
nature of the explorations made with a view to transit 
by the early conquerors; and the first authentic ac- 
count of the nature of the overland passage from sea to 
sea was obtained from the buccaneers, from whom that 
most remarkable man, William Patterson, one of the 
founders of the Bank of England, gleaned the informa- 
tion which enabled him to propound a project which was 
the grandest conception, as it was the greatest national 
misfortune, of the seventeenth century. Patterson's noble 
project of opening a "highway of nations " was basely 
and treacherously ruined, and the idea was not revived 
until after the Spanish-American colonies had thrown 
off the yoke of the mother-country ; then, indeed, a host 
of plans were formed for joining the two oceans. 

Fernando Cortez was the first who gave his earnest 
attention to the search for a practicable route from sea 
to sea. In his admirable letter to the King of Spain 
this passage occurs : — " It is the thing above all others 
in this world I am desirous of meeting with, on account 
of the immense utility which I am convinced w r ould re- 
sult from it." Cortez appears to have concentrated his 
attention upon the isthmus at Tehuantepec ; and so great 
was his confidence in the belief that at this part of 
Central America the problem would be solved, that he 
selected the lands in the vicinity as his portion of the 
conquered country. 

After the death of Cortez, the great advocate of the 

*In the town library at Nuremberg is preserved a globe, made by 
John Schoner in 1520, on which a passage through the isthmus of Darien 
is carefully delineated. — King's Wonders of the World. 


Tehuantepec route, the idea of forming a passage from 
sea to sea across that isthmus appears to have been 
abandoned; indeed, the jealousy and bigotry of the 
conquerors seems to have caused a reaction in favour of 
closing every avenue of approach to the New World 
instead of opening new roads through it. The learned 
divine P. Acosta, writing in 1588, says: "I am of 
opinion that no human power would be sufficient to 
cut through the strong and impenetrable bounds which 
God has put between the two oceans, of mountains and 
iron rocks, which can stand the fury of the raging seas. 
And if it were possible, it would appear to me very just 
to fear the vengeance of Heaven for attempting to im- 
prove the works which the Creator, in his almighty 
will and providence, ordered from the creation of the 
world." It is not a little curious that, exactly two hun- 
dred years later (1788), another divine secured to himself 
the honour of making a water communication from sea 
to sea at the southern extremity of Central America. 

In 1814 the Spanish Cortes authorized the formation 
of a canal across the isthmus of Tehuantepec in prefer- 
ence to Nicaragua or Panama ; but, as usual with that 
august body, they were just in time to be too late ; the 
revolt of the colonies rendered such an enterprise im- 
possible at that period. In 1842 the provisional Pre- 
sident of Mexico, Santa Anna, granted to Don Jose de 
Garay the exclusive privilege of using steam locomo- 
tive power for transit across the isthmus, and that gentle- 
man caused the most elaborate surveys of the route to 
be made ; but the length of the line, the poorness of 
the ports at each extremity, and the distracted state of 


the country combined to deter capitalists from embark- 
ing on such an undertaking, and consequently nothing 
has been attempted. Dampier, Don Augustin Cramer, 
and the great Humboldt, have at various times spoken 
in favourable terms of this route. The latter writes, 
" We cannot doubt that this point of the globe deserves 
no less attention than the Lake of Nicaragua." The 
following is a succinct account of the surveys and esti- 
mates made by Don Jose de Garay and Senor Moro : — 

" The width of the isthmus, from the Bay of Tehuan- 
tepec on the South Sea to the mouth of the river Coa- 
tzacoalcos, which flows into the Atlantic, is, according 
to the survey of Don Jose de Garay, about 138 miles. 
This river runs so far up into the country that its source 
has not yet been explored; but it evidently takes its 
rise among the same hills where some other large 
rivers, flowing into the Pacific, have also their origin. 
The Indians say that it runs from a lake from which 
the river Ostuta, running in the opposite direction, also 
derives its waters, but that the lake is difficult of access, 
and is guarded by supernatural beings. It is to be re- 
gretted that Don Jose de Garay, among his other valu- 
able labours in this part of the isthmus, did not trace 
these waters to their source, and it is still more to be 
regretted that the distracted state of Mexico will pro- 
bably prevent Don Jose de Garay from receiving any 
compensation for his services, or for the great expenses 
he incurred in making this important survey.. 

"The river Coatzacoalcos falls into the Atlantic 
Ocean, or rather into the Gulf of Mexico, in lat. 18° 8' N., 
long. 94° 17' W., discharging itself by two separate 


navigable mouths. The principal entrance has a depth 
of twenty feet of water on the bar, and within the bar 
the depth is from six to seven fathoms at low water, 
where the river is about 800 yards wide, but it is of 
greater width higher up, before the separation of the two 
outlets. Its course up to the confluence of the river 
Malatengo, taking the windings of the stream, is about 
160 miles with a fall of about 40 metres, or about 132 
feet; but, taking a straight line in the general direc- 
tion of the river, which is S.S.W., the distance from 
the coast to the river Malatengo is about 90 miles, with 
a depth of water varying from 30 feet, in the lower 
part of the river, to 6 feet in the higher part, and pre- 
senting only two obstacles of any consequence, both of 
which may be removed without much difficulty. 

"Above the junction with the river Malatengo, the vo- 
lume of the water in the Coatzacoalcos is much less ; it 
begins to take a south-easterly direction, and its declivity 
becoming more rapid, it ceases to be so well adapted for 
the purposes of navigation; but the Indians continue 
the ascent in their canoes and rafts until it divides into 
two small streams, being a distance which Don Jose de 
Garay says may be reckoned at about 90 kilometres, or 
about 55 miles, beyond the village of Santa Maria de 
Chimalapa, which is situated on the Coatzacoalcos, about 
twenty miles above the junction of the Malatengo, and 
which village is laid down in the maps attached to Don 
Jose de Garay's report. Beyond this village it was not 
thought necessary, for the purposes of the expedition, 
to carry the examination and the survey of the river 


"Leaving this river and ascending the river Malatengo, 
which here flows from west to east for about five miles, 
is found the Chichihua, a river flowing into it, and 
coming in a northerly direction from the Mesa de Ta- 
rifa, or table-land, which is about 200 metres, or 656 
feet, above the ocean. This is the summit level, where 
the mountainous chain is interrupted for a distance of 
about 35 miles, and gives place to an elevated plain, 
diversified with slightly rising grounds and valleys, from 
which several rivers flow both to the Atlantic and the 
Pacific Oceans. Water is abundant, the soil is rich and 
fertile, vegetation is luxuriant, fine timber grows in pro- 
fusion, and the climate is mild and healthy. 

" In this table-land rise several streams flowing north- 
wardly into the river Chichihua, and through it into the 
Malatengo, the Coatzacoalcos, and the Atlantic Ocean. 
Among these streams is the Rio de Tarifa ; and close to 
its source rises the Monetza, which flows into the river 
Chicapa, and by it passes to the Pacific Ocean, through 
the great lagoons of Tehuantepec. The distance from 
the parting of the waters, at the summit level, to the 
Pacific Ocean, is about 35 miles, of which about 15 
miles are occupied by the lagoons. 

" These lagoons are three in number, communicating 
with each other, and extending from east to west for 
about 35 miles ; their depth of water, from the mouth 
of the river Chicapa to the ocean, varies from 12 feet to 
18 feet, with a bottom of mud and shingle. They are 
in fact natural harbours, and are capable of great im- 

" It is evident from the preceding brief description of 


the country, that the works to be executed in making a 
navigation on this line, must be the improvement of the 
river Coatzacoalcos ; the ascent to the Mesa de Tarifa, 
or table-land, from the river Malatengo, being a rise of 
525 feet ; the canal, or cutting, at the Mesa de Tarifa, 
or summit level ; the descent of 656 feet to the lagoons 
on the shores of the Pacific ; and the improvement of 
these natural harbours. 

" Don Jose de Garay had the valuable assistance of 
Senor Gaetano Moro, as engineer-in-chief, under whose 
direction, with the aid of several talented Spanish of- 
ficers, a survey of the country was made in 1842 and 

"The time occupied in the survey was about nine 
months. Senor Moro and the officers who assisted 
him appear to have made good use of the means they 
could command : the survey was made trigonometrically, 
the levels were taken by the barometer ; and his Eeport 
confirms, in every important particular, the accounts 
given by the old Spaniards of this part of the isthmus, 
and the previous surveys of Don Augustin Cramer in 
1774, and of Don Tadeo Ortiz and Don Juan de Orbe- 
gozo in 1824. 

" Senor Moro takes the works on the Caledonian Ca- 
nal as the basis of an estimate, which he gives as the 
probable cost of those he contemplates in the present in- 
stance ; including certain trenches for conveying a sup- 
ply of water to the canal. 

" He gives it, however, with great diffidence, and, as 
he truly says : ' I have arrived at the most difficult and 
delicate part of our labours. Dutens, speaking of the 


Caledonian Canal, which he visited before its comple- 
tion, observes, that in a great undertaking of this kind 
it is impossible to pre-estimate the cost of every part ; 
and so it is ; the amount of expense is mostly influenced 
by eventual causes, by the mode of husbanding the funds, 
and by the skill with which the engineer conducts the 

" Senor Moro sums up his estimate thus : — 


Cost of 150 locks, at 200,000 francs 30,000,000 

Cost of 80 kilometres (about 50 miles) of canal at 475,000 francs 38,000,000 
Cost of 25 kilometres (15^ miles) of trench for supplying 

water, estimated at 10 francs per cubic metre 10,000,000 

Cost of 5 kilometres, or about 3 miles, of trench, estimated at 

15 francs per cubic metre . 3,000,000 

Cost of regulation of the river Coatzacoalcos, of the lagoons 

on the Pacific Ocean, and of the Boca Barra, or entrance 

to them from the sea 4,000,000 

Total, francs . . . 85,000,000 
Or about £3,400,000." 

Even supposing the above estimate to be correct, the 
work would assume gigantic proportions, requiring many 
years of hard labour, under favourable circumstances and 
a settled government, to complete it ; but while Mexico 
remains in her present distracted state, any attempt 
would be hopeless. It is useless to speculate upon 
what might have been the condition of that ill-fated 
country had it only been moderately well governed du- 
ring its forty years of freedom ; but the Spaniards ap- 
pear to have left as a legacy to their revolted colonies 
all their vices and not one of their virtues, and there- 
fore it is more than probable that no effort to reform 
the present possessors of the soil can be successful, ren- 


dering it necessary before this beautiful country can be 
restored to civilization, to infuse a very large admixture 
of new blood. Whether France will be as successful 
as she has been elsewhere remains to be seen, but every 
well-wisher of the world's progress must cordially wish 
her " God speed." If regeneration is effected, there is 
no doubt the locomotive will be speedily introduced as 
the surest means of consolidating the good work, and in 
that case we may hope to see the iron rails across the 
isthmus at Tehuantepec. There have been Mexicans 
fully alive to the advantages which would thereby be 
gained for their country, as the following correspon- 
dence will show. I have inserted it in this place, not 
only because it is intrinsically well worth preservation, 
but because it contains probably the first concession 
granted by any of the Spanish-American Republics for 
crossing their country : — 

Memorial of Don Jose de Garay, soliciting of his Excellency the 
President of the Mexican Republic the Privilege of opening a 
Communication between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, 
through the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. 

" Sir, — Your Excellency has caused the Mexican public to 
look forward to the present epoch as one of improvement and 
gigantic advancement in the career of national aggrandisement. 

" No measure can be more fruitful in prosperous results, 
none more remarkable or more glorious, than that which shall 
form a junction between the two oceans, without the necessity 
of doubling that stormy Cape, discovered by a Hollander, and 
to which he gave his name, which forms the southernmost ex- 
tremity of the American continent. 

" Thousands of ships yearly perform this difficult and tedious 
voyage, passing twice through the tropics, in the midst of 
innumerable and imminent dangers. 


' c The mind is bewildered with the difficulty of embracing, in 
one comprehensive view, the astonishing consequences that 
would result from a communication between the two oceans, by- 
means of which, ships sailing from Europe will save 2000 
leagues, and those from North America 3100 leagues, in their 
voyage to the coast of China. What an economy of time and 
money ! And how far will these advantages extend, now that 
the lines of steamboats established on the high seas have so 
prodigiously shortened distances ! 

( ' A great revolution will take place in the commercial, and 
even the political, affairs of all nations, the instant America 
shall open the passage through any of her isthmuses. The 
epoch which shall see this effected will be more memorable 
than that of the discovery of this continent ; and the name of 
him to whom the world shall owe this event will be at least as 
glorious as that of Columbus. 

" If your Excellency is ambitious of this glory for yourself 
and your country, you should now dedicate your attention, and 
the powerful mind with which you are endowed, to the execu- 
tion of the enterprise contained in the present representation, 
and to which is annexed the project I have conceived for form- 
ing a communication between the two oceans. 

" By this your Excellency will see that I propose to exe- 
cute this gigantic work in a very short time, considering the mag- 
nitude of the enterprise, and I ask not the least pecuniary assist- 
ance from Government ; a,nd from the commencement I offer to 
the national treasury a considerable revenue, viz. one-fourth of 
the transit duties on the line of the route : and these will, after 
a term of fifty years, belong wholly to the republic. 

" What I ask as an indemnification of expenses is certainly 
not much, when it is considered that it will be necessary to 
form forts, raise fortifications and other edifices, and open roads 
or canals ; and when it is borne in mind that the indemnifica- 
tion does not consist in any funds of which the Government is 
at present possessed, but in property to which I am about to 
create a value. 

" The value hereafter of the lands of which I solicit a grant 


will be the consequence of my efforts,, for at the present day 
they have none whatever. 

" The enterprise could not be undertaken by any person for 
less than what I have solicited, because the magnitude of the 
works will be such as probably to absorb all the resources aris- 
ing from what I ask. 

l( Your Excellency cannot fail to remark two very striking 
features in my proposition. First, the establishment of the 
neutrality of the line of transit ; this is a point worthy of the 
magnanimity of the Government, and necessary to interest all 
nations, in order that the communication may not be seized by 
any foreign Power, but be ever preserved as the property of the 
republic. Secondly, that I have not proposed to open imme- 
diately a ship canal across the isthmus, because I have seen 
similar proposals fall to the ground in other parts of Central 
America and Columbia. Often the desire of carrying into exe- 
cution a magnificent undertaking is the cause why a lesser one, 
though highly important, has been neglected. 

u Convinced that it has been well said that by ( seeking per- 
fection we lose what may be attainable/ I have resolved to 
carry the latter into effect, without, however, renouncing my 
hopes of accomplishing the former. Although a communication 
by water may not be practicable for the present, this will infal- 
libly take place when the isthmus shall become known from the 
commerce of the world traversing it, when the advantage of 
giving* to this grand work all the perfection of which it is 
capable shall be duly appreciated, and when both sides of the 
Line shall be dotted with rich and populous cities, as will cer- 
tainly happen in a few years. 

" Let this be enumerated among the acts of your Excellency's 
public life, and your name will not only belong to the glory of 
your country, but will be identified with the best interests of 
mankind, and immortalized by an imperishable monument. The 
whole world will receive incalculable benefits ; and what ad- 
vantages will not accrue to Mexico in particular, when the 
accomplishment of this undertaking shall make her the centre 
of universal commerce, giving a vast impulse to the elements 
of her terrestrial wealth, undeveloped at present, from the little 


intercourse she enjoys with the splendour and industry of 

" I beg leave, Sir, to repeat that the mind is bewildered in 
the attempt to calculate the beneficial results that must accrue 
to Mexico from the facility with which her native products will 
be exported, and from her becoming the emporium of the com- 
merce of the world, as also from deriving revenues from duties 
not levied upon the inhabitants of the republic, and from the 
vast influx of population and capital into the country. 

" May your Excellency therefore become the author of these 
great and numerous benefits to your country, and by acceding 
to the articles of this memorial, thus sanction the most memor- 
able act of your illustrious and patriotic career. 

"Mexico, February 25, 1842. 

"Jose de Garay." 

Edict ordering the Opening of the Isthmus , with the Grants therein 
specified ; and Contract between the supreme Government and 
Don Jose de Gar ay. 

"Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, General of Division, 
Benemerito of the Country, and provisional President of 
the Republic of Mexico, to all the inhabitants thereof. 
* Know ye : 
" That, firm to my purpose of exalting the nation and of 
rendering the people happy, and, taking into consideration the 
propositions which Don Jose de Garay has presented ; and con- 
sidering that no means are so sure and effectual for promoting 
the national prosperity as that of creating the republic the 
centre of the commerce and navigation of all countries ; and 
that this must be the consequence of the establishment of an 
easy and short communication from one ocean to the other ; 
that nature herself offers the means of accomplishing this with- 
out opposing any great obstacle, and without the necessity of 
incurring any vast expense, in the isthmus of Tehuantepec, in- 
asmuch as there the Cordillera dips to such a degree that it 
may almost be said to disappear ; that there are two harbours 
in those parts, one towards the north and the other towards the 
south, at a short distance from each other ; and that a conside- 


rable portion of the space between is transitable by means of a 
navigable river and a lake ; and that the nature of the inter- 
mediate ground is favourable for carrying on such works as it 
may be necessary to undertake, as it abounds in materials for 
construction : And considering that if up to this moment 
public attention has not been properly called to this enterprise 
(which alone is capable of exalting the republic), this has per- 
haps happened from not having duly calculated its important 
consequences, or because the possibility of its execution has not 
been known, or that from a preconcerted idea existing in favour 
of making a cut to join the two oceans, the advantage of a road 
or canal destined for the transshipment of goods has been en- 
tirely lost sight of, by which the same results might be approxi- 
mately obtained : And furthermore desiring, if more cannot be 
done to accomplish what is practicable, but still of the greatest 
importance to the republic and the world in general, and seek- 
ing, by promoting the execution of what is at present attain- 
able, to give an impulse to future attempts on a larger scale, 
since the opening of a line of communication, by tending to 
show that it is not difficult to cut across the continent, may 
hereafter conduce to the undertaking of this great work : Feel- 
ing, besides, that in order to encourage the spirit of speculation, 
it is necessary to make concessions, by which alone enterprise 
has ever been fostered ; and that by this enterprise in particu- 
lar the nation will obtain revenues which it cannot reckon at 
present, derivable from foreign trade, and immediately reap the 
advantages which must result from universal intercourse, when 
its soil shall become the emporium of commerce, and conse- 
quently teem with wealth and abundance when its various 
products shall become articles of exportation : — Therefore, by 
virtue of the powers and faculties vested in me by the 7th ar- 
ticle of convention, signed at Tacubaya, and sworn to by the 
representatives of the departments, I have determined to issue 
the following 

" Deceee. 
t( Article 1. — A line of communication shall be opened be- 
tween the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, through the isthmus of 


" Article 2. — This shall be performed by water, but when 
this may not be convenient, then railroads and steam-carriages 
may be used. 

"Article 3. — The passage to be opened across the isthmus 
shall be neutral, and common to all nations at peace with the 
Mexican republic. 

"Article 4. — The execution of this work shall be confided to 
Don Jose de Garay, to whom is hereby granted an exclusive 
privilege to this effect. His obligations and indemnifications 
shall be as hereafter expressed : — 

{i First. — Don Jose de Garay shall cause to be made, at his 
own expense, a survey of the ground and direction which the 
route should follow, and also of the ports which may be deemed 
most proper and commodious from their proximity : all which 
shall be concluded, at furthest, within the space of eighteen 
months from the date hereof, and the works shall be com- 
menced, at furthest, within the space of ten months next 
thereafter ; and in case this shall not be performed within the 
time specified, the exclusive privilege hereby conceded to him 
shall cease. 

" Second. — The said Don Jose de Garay shall cause to be made 
in the ports which he shall select, all kinds of works that may 
be necessary for shelter and utility. He shall construct in each 
of them fortresses and warehouses ; he shall carry into effect 
the line of communication between the two ports by means of 
water, carriage, or railroad, in both cases by means of steam ; 
and he shall establish as many steamboats and trains of steam- 
cars as shall be deemed necessary, so that there shall be no 
delay for want of means of transport. 

" Third. — The grantee shall pay, at a just valuation, for any 
private property through which the route shall pass, but he 
shall not demand, on account of public utility, more than a 
quarter of a league on either side of the line, which is all he can 
require the proprietors to sell. 

" Fourth. — The indemnifications which are here accorded to 
the grantee, and to those who may acquire his rights, are the 
following : — He shall have the right of collecting the transit 


duties for the term of fifty years, at the expiry of which 
time they shall revert to the Government of the Republic ; and 
for sixty years the exclusive privilege of carrying on the trans- 
port by steam vessels and railroad cars, fixing equitable rates of 
freight ; but he shall give to the Government, from the time 
that the line of communication shall be made available, the 
fourth part of the net produce of the dues that are paid for the 
ight of transit, deducting all expenses of administration, pre- 
servation, and repairs. A similar fourth part shall be given by 
the Government to the Negotiation for a like term, when it 
shall enter into possession of the before-mentioned transit dues 
payable on the line of communication. 

"Fifth. — The Government and the Negotiation may each 
name their agents to look into the receipts and expenditures 
during the whole of the time that each respectively shall be en- 
titled to the before-mentioned fourth part of the transit dues. 
All the unoccupied lands for the distance of ten leagues on 
either side of the line of communication, road, or canal, are 
hereby ceded in fee-simple to the Negotiation. 

" Sixth. — All foreigners are permitted to acquire real pro- 
perty, and to exercise any trade or calling, not even excepting 
that of mining, within the distance of fifty leagues on either 
side of the line of transit. That territory shall be the country 
of all who may come to establish themselves there, subject, 
however, to the laws of the Republic. 

" Seventh. — The Government engages to give to the Negotia- 
tion every protection and assistance, as well for effecting the 
survey as for carrying on the works, but the remuneration of 
the services of the inhabitants of those parts shall be at the 
expense of the Negotiation. The Government also engages not 
to impose any contributions or taxes upon the travellers or 
effects in transitu, during the aforesaid term of fifty years, and 
not to levy upon the Negotiation or its funds any imposts or 
forced loans. 

u Eighth. — The Government shall have the right of appoint- 
ing the custom-house officers which it may see fit, in the ports 
and in any other points it may choose, on the line of communi- 



cation, but only for the purpose of recovering the duties of ex- 
portation and importation upon articles which do not come and 
go merely in transitu, and for the prevention of smuggling. 
The Government shall in no case interfere in the collection of 
transit dues, nor in the collection of freight, lighterage, or ton- 
nage, or of any other class of dues, for none shall be payable 
by vessels loading or unloading in transit, as long as the line of 
communication shall belong to the Negotiation. The measures 
which the Government shall adopt for the prevention of smug- 
gling shall be such as shall cause no embarrassment or delay in 
the transport of effects across the Isthmus, and particular regu- 
lations will be adopted and issued to this effect. 

' ' Ninth. — When the works shall be completed they shall be 
examined by two surveyors, one to be named by the Govern- 
ment and the other by the Negotiation, in order that they may 
declare whether the terms of the contract have been complied 
with by the latter ; and in case these shall disagree, the sur- 
veyors shall nominate an umpire, who shall settle the dispute. 
No kind of question or difference shall prevent the line of com- 
munication from coming into operation as soon as it shall be 
ready ; nevertheless, the Negotiation is always bound to fulfil 
the contract in every particular. 

" Tenth. — In case it should hereafter be found practicable to 
join the two seas by a cut, and that propositions to this effect 
should be made by any individual or any company, they shall 
not be admitted during the period of fifty years for which the 
privilege is granted to Don Jose de Garay, without his previous 
consent, or that of those who may have acquired his rights. 

"Eleventh. — The contract between the Government and Don 
Jose de Garay shall be drawn out in writing according to the 
tenor of the articles forming the basis of this decree, with all the 
formalities required by law ; therefore I command that it be 
printed, published, and circulated, and duly carried into effect. 

"Given at the Palace of the National Government, this 1st 
d y of March, 1842. 

" Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. 
" Jose Maria Bocanegra" 


Theorists have advocated a canal from the Gulf of 
Dulce on the Atlantic, to the Gulf of Fonseca on the 
Pacific, but, independently of the great disadvantage of 
traversing two states (Guatemala and Honduras), the 
nature of the intervening country is so mountainous that 
it seems surprising that any one could have advanced 
such an idea; at all events, before a decision can be 
given, a regular survey must be made. All that is 
known with certainty is, that the terminal ports are 
adapted for such an object. 

i 2 




The greatest, and, beyond doubt, the most practicable 
scheme of Central American canalization that has ever 
been advocated is that passing through Nicaragua, 
where the comparative facilities for forming a magni- 
ficent canal for ships of the largest size admits of no 
dispute ; but if from no other consideration, the gigantic 
nature of the enterprise and its enormous cost must 
place it, if not beyond the reach, at all events beyond 
the inclination, of the money-making capitalists of the 
present day. 

It is admitted by its most zealous friends that ten 
years must elapse before the canal could be finished; 
and it must be remembered that it could not be opened 
and used in sections like a railway, and therefore not 
one penny could be earned until the whole work had 
been completed. Is there a capitalist living who would 
embark in such an undertaking ? 

The Nicaraguan project has been upheld by many 


first-rate men, Baily, Stephens, Belly, and others. In 
1830 a company was formed in Holland, under the 
patronage of the king, for making the canal, but the 
disturbances in that country broke up the company. 
Again, in 1835, the project was brought before the 
Government of the United States, and a resolution of 
the Senate was passed in favour of it; but the agent 
sent by General Jackson, then President, to arrange 
with the Nicaraguan authorities, died on the road, and 
the matter was allowed to drop. No one, however, has 
taken so warm an interest in the subject as the present 
Emperor of the French. It appears that Don Francisco 
Castillon, envoy to the Court of France, put himself, 
in 1840, in communication with Prince L. N. Bona- 
parte, at that time a prisoner at Ham, and proposed 
to him, in the name of the Nicaraguan Government, to 
take upon himself exclusively the construction of the 
proposed canal. Had this offer been accepted, the re- 
sult might have been that Louis Napoleon would have 
ruled the destinies of Nicaragua instead of those of 
France ; but, fortunately for the latter country, the cap- 
tive was not allowed to go. Some very interesting cor- 
respondence passed between the Prince and Sefior 
Castillon; and the subject appears to have made so 
permanent an impression upon the mind of the former, 
that after his escape from Ham and safe arrival in 
London, he devoted a considerable amount of time and 
study to it, and not only wrote a most able pamphlet, 
but publicly advocated the project at the Institution of 
Civil Engineers, London.* The pamphlet points out 

* Vide vol. vi., 1847, p. 427 : Excerpt Minutes of Proceedings of the 
Institution of Civil Engineers. 


clearly the manifold advantages of a transit through Ni- 
caragua ; and as the arguments apply quite as forcibly 
now as when the pages were penned, I have con- 
sidered it advisable to quote the Imperial author's own 
words. — 

Extracts from a Pamphlet written in 1847, by His Imperial 
Majesty Napoleon III. 

" There are certain countries which, from their geo- 
graphical situation, are destined to a highly prosperous 
future. Wealth, power, every national advantage, flows 
into them, provided that where nature has done her 
utmost, man does not neglect to avail himself of her 
beneficent assistance. 

"Those countries are in the most favourable condi- 
tions which are situated on the high-road of commerce, 
and which offer to commerce the safest ports and har- 
bours, as well as the most profitable interchange of com- 
modities. Such countries, finding in the intercourse of 
foreign trade illimitable resources, are enabled to take 
advantage of the fertility of their soil ; and in this way 
a home trade springs up commensurate with the increase 
of mercantile traffic. It is by such means that Tyre and 
Carthage, Constantinople, Venice, Genoa, Amsterdam, 
Liverpool, and London attained to such great prosperity, 
rising from the condition of poor hamlets to extensive 
and affluent commercial cities, and exhibiting to sur- 
rounding nations the astonishing spectacle of powerful 
states springing suddenly from unwholesome swamps 
and marshes. Venice in particular was indebted for her 
overwhelming grandeur to the geographical position 


which constituted her for centuries the entrepot between 
Europe and the East ; and it was only when the dis- 
covery of the Cape of Good Hope opened a ship pas- 
sage to the latter that her prosperity gradually declined. 
Notwithstanding, so great was her accumulation of 
wealth, and consequent commercial influence, that she 
withstood for three centuries the formidable competition 
thus created. 

" There exists another city famous in history, although 
now fallen from its pristine grandeur, so admirably 
situated as to excite the jealousy of all the great Euro- 
pean Powers, who combine to maintain in it a govern- 
ment so far barbarous as to be incapable of taking advan- 
tage of the great resources bestowed upon it by nature. 
The geographical position of Constantinople is such as 
rendered her the queen of the ancient world. Occu- 
pying, as she does, the central point between Europe, 
Asia, and Africa, she could become the entrepot of the 
commerce of all these countries, and obtain over them 
an immense preponderance ; for in politics, as in stra- 
tegy, a central position always commands the circum- 
ference. Situated between two seas, of which, like two 
great lakes, she commands the entrance, she could shut 
up in them, sheltered from the assaults of all other 
nations, the most formidable fleets, by which she could 
exercise dominion in the Mediterranean as well as in 
the Black Sea, thereby commanding the entrance of the 
Danube, which opens the way to Germany, as well as 
the sources of the Euphrates, which open the road to 
the Indies, dictating her own terms to the commerce of 
Greece, France, Italy, Spain, and Egypt. This is what 


the proud city of Constantine could be, and this is what 
she is not, ' because,' as Montesquieu says, ' God per- 
mitted that Turks should exist on earth, a people the 
most fit to possess uselessly a great empire.' 

" There exists in the New World a state as admirably 
situated as Constantinople, and we must say, up to the 
present time, as uselessly occupied ; we allude to the 
state of Nicaragua. As Constantinople is the centre of 
the ancient world, so is the town of Leon, or rather 
Massaya, the centre of the new ; and if the tongue of 
land which separates its two lakes from the Pacific 
Ocean were cut through, she would command by her 
central position the entire coast of North and South 
America. Like Constantinople, Massaya is situated 
between two extensive natural harbours, capable of giv- 
ing shelter to the largest fleets, safe from attack. The 
state of Nicaragua can become, better than Constan- 
tinople, the necessary route for the great commerce of 
the world ; for it is for the United States the shortest 
road to China and the East Indies, and for England and 
the rest of Europe to New Holland, Polynesia, and the 
whole of the western coast of America. The state of 
Nicaragua is then destined to attain to an extraordi- 
nary degree of prosperity and grandeur; for that which 
renders its political position more advantageous than 
that of Constantinople is, that the great maritime powers 
of Europe would witness with pleasure, and not with 
jealousy, its attainment of a station no less favourable 
to its individual interests than to the commerce of the 

" France, England, Holland, Russia, and the United 


States, have a great commercial interest in the establish- 
ment of a communication between the two oceans ; but 
England has more than the other Powers a political 
interest in the execution of this project. England will 
see with pleasure Central America become a flourish- 
ing and powerful state, which will establish a balance 
of power by creating in Spanish America a new centre 
of active enterprise, powerful enough to give rise to a 
great feeling of nationality, and to prevent, by backing 
Mexico, any further encroachment from the north. 
England will witness with satisfaction the opening of a 
route which will enable her to communicate more 
speedily with Oregon, China, and her possessions in 
New Holland. She will find, in a word, that the ad- 
vancement of Central America will renovate the de- 
clining commerce of Jamaica and the other English 
island in the Antilles, the progressive decay of which 
will be thereby stopped. It is a happy coincidence that 
the political and commercial prosperity of the state of 
Nicaragua is closely connected with the policy of that 
nation which has the greatest preponderance on the 

The Imperial author then proceeds to make a calcu- 
lation and estimate regarding the nature of the works 
for the proposed canal and its cost. No useful object, 
however, would be gained in preserving the mass of 
figures which he has accumulated. Sixteen years ago 
the locomotive had not attained the perfection of the 
present day, and people were then accustomed to reckon 
distance by mileage. . Now time is acknowledged by 


every one to be the true measure. A passenger would 
now consider himself deeply aggrieved if the train ar- 
rived a few minutes late, whereas, a few years ago, loss 
of time was not considered of any moment. This revo- 
lution in public opinion is due to the locomotive ; and 
this is one of the main reasons why canalization pro- 
jects do not find favour in the eyes of the people. It 
was unmistakably the vox populi speaking through Ro- 
bert Stephenson which condemned the Suez Canal pro- 
ject. Had public opinion been in favour of that scheme, 
the puerile objections and narrow ideas of our Govern- 
ment would have been as contemptuously ignored as 
they have lately been in the Thames Embankment 

In the remainder of his pamphlet the Emperor enters 
fully upon his plan for combining colonization with the 
Canal undertaking, and the main features of this plan 
are well worthy the most careful consideration. 

" We have stated that the secondary profits of the 
Canal would arise from the increase in the value of the 
soil. According to our information, the Government of 
Nicaragua would cede to the Company all the land 
lying on the right and left banks of the Canal through- 
out its entire course, to an extent of two leagues inland, 
forming 300 square leagues, or about 1,200,000 acres. 
These 1,200,000 acres are at the present moment worth 
Is. 6c?. per acre. The proposed gift by the Government 
of Nicaragua to the Company is, therefore, now of the 
value of £90,000. If we deduct from the above number 
200,000 acres as probably incapable of cultivation, and 


300,000 more that would be required for the service of 
the Company, producing no income, or as concessions to 
its engineers, servants, etc., there will remain 700,000 
acres to explore and improve. The Canal being accom- 
plished, it will be easily granted that these lands may in 
all probability bear a value of at least £2 per acre. Let 
us put it at £1 per acre only, and we shall have a property 
of £700,000 vesting absolutely in the Company, for we 
must not forget that the soil is here very fertile ; that 
they frequently have more than two harvests a year ; 
that the indigo produced in this country is better than 
that produced in the East Indies; that the tobacco is 
as good as at Havana ; that coffee and sugar are easily 
produced ; that the forests are filled with Brazil-wood ; 
that there are mines to work ; and finally, that the waste 
water thrown off the Canal locks would afford power 
for manufacturing purposes. It is thus evident that, 
if the Company should limit itself to the disposal of 
these lands when the Canal is complete, they would de- 
rive great profit, were it only by the increase of value ; 
but in our opinion there is a greater advantage to be 
derived from their retention. 

" We firmly believe that it is important to combine 
with the construction of the Canal the project of colo- 
nization, in order that the two undertakings should as- 
sist each other, and to enlist as shareholders the mass of 
emigrants, who annually depart for America, and who, 
according to the statistical information gathered up to 
this day, set forth with an average sum of £20 per 
head.* Thus the shares would be placed in hands most 

* We read in the ' Journal des Debats ' of the 3rd of May, 1846, that the 


interested in the success of the undertaking ; for those 
only who join an enterprise for the sake of investment, 
and not mere gamblers, ensure the solidity of an under- 

" The capital of £4,000,000, which we presume to be 
necessary for the construction of the Canal, should be 
divided into 400,000 shares of £10 each. By paying 
down the value of one or more shares, the emigrant 
shareholder would be entitled on his arrival in Ame- 
rica to such accommodations as would enable him to 
overcome the first difficulties, necessarily attendant on 
early steps in colonization. Every emigrant shareholder 
would receive from the Company twenty acres of land to 
cultivate as well as the necessary implements for that 

" The 700,000 acres of land would be thus distributed 
among 35,000 emigrants, and sold to them on the fol- 
lowing terms : — Ten years' time would be allowed for 
the emigrant shareholder to pay to the Company the 
price of the twenty acres allotted to him, as well as the 
outlay incurred by the Company in procuring him dwell- 
ing, food, and all the accommodations required. The 

society formed at New York, the 31st of March, 1784, to assist the in- 
digent Germans in the United States, celebrated on Tuesday last the sixty- 
second anniversary of its foundation. On this occasion they have published 
a pamphlet, which states, amongst other things, that the number of Ger- 
man emigrants which arrived during last year in the city of New York 
alone amounted to 30,567, each of them having an average sum of £20 
sterling. Of these emigrants 12,225 arrived from Havre, in 78 ships ; 9647 
from Bremen, in 77 ships ; 3718 from Antwerp, in 25 ships ; 2525 from 
Hamburg, in 24 ships ; 1959 from Eotterdam, in 13 ships ; and 493 from 
Ghent, London, and Liverpool, in 5 ships. The greater part have taken 
their direction towards the Southern States. In 1814 there arrived only 
17,999 German emigrants at New York. 



payment should be made by annual instalments, and pro- 
portionate to the progressive increase of value likely to 
increase every year in the property. 

" So, the whole of the first year having been entirely 
taken up by preparing and tilling the ground, the emi- 
grant shareholder should not be made liable for any 
payment whatever during that time. The annual in- 
stalments should begin to be paid at the end of the 
second year, and accomplished in the progressive man- 
ner indicated in the following table : — 

At the end of the first year . 
„ „ second year 

third year 
j, „ fourth year 

„ „ fifth year . 

}) 3 , sixth year 

seventh year 

Per acre, 

per annum 

. . £0 

. . 


. . 



. . 


. . 



. . 


. . 



. . 


. . 



. . 


. . 






eighth year 
ninth year 
tenth year 
eleventh year 

" So every acre of land will procure to the Company, 
in the course of eleven years, a net profit of £1. 12s. 6d, 
and consequently 700,000 acres of land will bring, in 
the above-stated lapse of time, the corresponding profit 
of £1,137,500. 

" The Company would establish as many villages as 
would be necessary for the number of colonists. Each 
village would be erected on the most healthy spots, and 
in the vicinity of a river. It would be composed of 


200 dwellings, each dwelling being appropriated to one 
family. A village would then cost : 

200 dwellings, at £4 each £800 

Maintenance for the first six months, and 

seed, at £4 per family 800 

Church, stores, and schools 280 

Casual expenses 120 


" If we divide this sum by the number of families, 
we shall find that the outlay will be £10 per family in 
ten years, to be reimbursed as above stated. Now, let 
us suppose that in about ten years the Company has es- 
tablished 175 villages, containing 35,000 families: the 
expense will have been £350,000, which the Company 
will be reimbursed, by the annual progressive rate. As 
each of these families has been enabled to buy and pay 
for twenty acres of land at the progressive rate above 
mentioned, the Company will have received for 700,000 
acres the sum of £1,137,500, from which, deducting 
£350,000, the outlay for the construction of the villages, 
there will remain a clear profit of £787,500, exclusive 
of the interest received on the outlays. We must also 
remark that the colonists, being shareholders, will have 
paid £787,500 to themselves in their capacity as a com- 
pany ; thus there would be a perfect amalgamation of 
interest between the shareholders and the colonists, who 
would be equally interested in the success of the under- 
taking. Thus, deducting this sum from the amount of 
£4,000,000, necessary for the construction of a canal, 
the capital expended would be about £3,200,000 only, 


bringing a net profit of £600,000, or 10 per cent, per 

" At present, when the colonist goes to America he 
finds no dwelling, no advance of capital, and often no 
employment ; on our plan, on the contrary, by means 
of a share, he is sure to find, on arriving in America, a 
wholesome dwelling, livelihood for six months, fertile 
lands, and a community already settled. Moreover, a 
part of the money paid for the purchase of his land 
would come back to him as a shareholder ; and in about 
ten years his property would not only be freed from all 
burdens, but he might expect at that period, that both 
his share in the Canal and his land would be doubled 
in value. 

"Thus our project protects all interests, the capitalist 
realizes large profits, and the emigrants partake of the 
benefit, with a moral certainty of future prosperity. This 
neglected country speedily changes to flourishing towns, 
its lakes are covered with fleets, and its wealth is in- 
creased by the progress of agriculture and commerce. 

" Central America can emerge from her present lan- 
guor only by following the example of the United 
States, namely, by borrowing from Europe labour and 
capital for this first object. Independent of the advan- 
tages of its geographical position and of the fertility of 
its soil, the state of Nicaragua presents to European 
emigrants advantages which are not to be found in the 
United States. In the north of America, the population 
settled itself in the beginning on the eastern coast, gra- 
dually extending inland. As long as the uncultivated 
lands were not far from the sea, the European emigrants 


easily found employment ; but now the case is altered, 
and the great number of foreigners that daily arrive in 
the United States become, for the following reason, a 
burden to the nation. The uncultivated lands where 
adventurers may easily find employment, are three hun- 
dred leagues from the coast, and as, in most instances, 
the emigrants are destitute of means to reach those re- 
mote districts, they become in the towns on the coast a 
prey to indolence and misery. In Central America the 
reverse would be the case ; the indigenous population 
has settled by preference on the coast of the Pacific 
Ocean, deserting all that part situated opposite the an- 
cient world, so that when the country is in a position 
to require colonists and European labourers, they may 
arrive through the Canal to places already inhabited ; 
and the population will gradually extend from the west 
to the east, and not, as in the United States, from the 
east to the west, thus getting nearer to Europe, in pro- 
portion as it increases, and offering facilities to the new 
colonists, till they reach the extreme borders of the 

"The prosperity of Central America is connected 
with the interests of civilization at large ; and the best 
means to promote the welfare of humanity is to knock 
down the barriers which separate men, races, and na- 
tions. This course is pointed out to us by the Christian 
religion, as well as by the efforts of those great men 
w^ho have at intervals appeared in the world. The 
Christian faith teaches us that we are all brothers, and 
that in the eye of God the slave is equal to the master, 
— as the Asiatic, the African, and the Indian, are alike 


equal to the European. On the other hand, the great 
men of the world have by their wars commingled the 
various races of the world, and left behind them some 
of those imperishable monuments which, in levelling 
mountains, opening forests, and canalizing rivers, has a 
tendency to upset these obstacles which divide man- 
kind, and to unite men in communities, communities in 
people, people in nations. War and commerce have ci- 
vilized the world. The time for war is gone by ; com- 
merce alone pushes its conquests. Let us then open 
to it a new route ; let us approximate the people of 
Oceania and Australia to Europe ; and let us make them 
partakers of the blessings of Christianity and civilization. 
To accomplish this great undertaking we make an ap- 
peal to all religious and intelligent men, for this enter- 
prise is worthy of their zeal and sympathy. We invoke 
the assistance of all statesmen, because every nation is 
interested in the establishment of new and easy commu- 
nications between the eastern and western parts of the 
globe. Finally, we call upon capitalists, because whilst 
they are promoting a glorious undertaking, they are sure 
to derive a large profit thereby." 

How nearly the Emperor's predictions have been 
fulfilled, let those bear witness who have watched 
Walker's career in Nicaragua. Politically his success 
would have been a great advantage to England, but we 
co-operated with the United States, to our own in- 
jury, — so short-sighted, so ignorant, or so timid, was our 

The idea of canalization, if not exploded for ever, 



may at all events be looked upon as postponed for 
an indefinite period ; nevertheless it will be necessary 
to give a brief description of the proposed course of 
the canal, and also of the amount of money supposed 
necessary to complete it. Surveys have lately been un- 
dertaken under American auspices ; but as the following 
is home-made, and has moreover been well sifted by 
the late Mr. Joseph Glynn, M.I.C.E., it would seem to 
be the most reliable. 

In the years 1837 and 1838, a survey was made by 
Mr. John Baily, lieutenant in the Royal Marines, at the 
request and under the authority of General Morazan, 
then President of the Central American Republic, for 
the purpose of ascertaining the practicability of forming 
a canal, from the port of San Juan del Sur, on the Pa- 
cific Ocean, in lat. 11° 15' K, long. 86° 1' W., by the Lake 
of Nicaragua and the river San Juan, to the Atlantic. 

The port of San Juan del Sur is narrow at the entrance, 
but widens within the harbour ; it is surrounded by high 
land, except from west-south-west to west-by-south ; the 
depth of water at the entrance is three fathoms, and its 
width 1100 yards. Ships can go up for about half a 
mile ; but, as the winds often blow with great violence 
from the north and north-east, there is sometimes con- 
siderable difficulty in making the anchorage. 

From this port Mr. Baily took a line of levels ; not in 
a direct course, but diverging, so as to pass between the 
hills at the lowest point, when it could be done, without 
widely deviating from a straight line ; and in many 
places he passed through ravines of from 30 feet to 120 
feet in depth. Mr. Baily found the ground rise, with 


a gradual acclivity, from the beach to the distance of 
5880 yards, where it attained a height of 284 feet; 
then for 904 yards it rose rapidly to the summit — 615 
feet above the level of the ocean. At that point the 
waters separated ; those on the north side of the ridge 
flowing to the Atlantic, through the lake and the river 
San Juan, and those on the south side to the Pacific 

The ground then descended rapidly, and in a distance 
of 8664 yards the elevation was reduced 295 feet, 
whence it gradually sloped, with but slight interruptions, 
for a further distance of 6168 yards, where it joined the 
river Lajas, along which it ran for 6792 yards, and 
afterwards discharged itself into the Lake of Nica- 
ragua. The surface of that lake was 128 feet 3 inches 
above the level of the sea ; the whole distance from the 
South Sea to the lake, by Mr. Baily's track, being 
28,408 yards, and his mean course N. 33° E. 

The distance, in a straight line, from his starting- 
point on the sea-beach, to the mouth of the river Lajas, 
was 20,401 yards, or less than 12 miles; the summit 
level of the ground intervening between the lake and 
the South Sea being 488 feet above the surface of the 
lake. The entire length of the proposed canal would, 
however, be about 15f miles. 

The river Lajas varies in width from 25 yards to 100 
yards ; the depth of water also varies from one to three 
fathoms, with a bottom of mud, of a thickness of se- 
veral feet, as was*ascertained by boring. 

The dimensions of the Lake of Nicaragua are variously 
given by different writers ; but Mr. Baily seems to have 

k 2 


taken some pains to ascertain them correctly, and he 
states the length to be 95 miles ; the breadth, in its 
widest part, to be abont 35 miles; and the average 
depth of water, according to his soundings, 15 fathoms. 
These dimensions agree with the map of Don Felipe 

The length of the river San Juan, with all its wind- 
ings, from the Lake to Greytown, is 119 miles, with a 
fall of 107^ feet. There are four rapids, viz. Machuca, 
Castillo Viejo H El Mico, and Del Toro, extending over 
about six miles, with broken water running over a rocky 
bottom. The San Juan is fed by many tributaries, the 
largest of which are San Carlos and Serapiqui, taking 
their rise in Costa Rica. The volume of water in the 
San Juan varies of course in different seasons ; at the 
commencement of June, the lowest stage, about 12,000 
cubic feet per second passed from the lake. The 
greatest rise in the lake ever known was six feet. At 
high lake, about October, there is probably between 
40,000 and 50,000 cubic feet per second, divided at the 
delta of the river, of which about three-fourths pass 
out by the Colorado branch, and the remainder by the 
San Juan. 

The whole length of the canal, from the Lake of 
Nicaragua to the Pacific, is fifteen miles and two-thirds. 
According to the plan, in the first eight miles, only one 
lock is necessary. In the next mile, 64 feet of lockage 
are required. In the next three miles, there are about 
two miles of deep cutting, and one mile of tunnel, and 
then a descent of 200 feet in three miles by lockage, to 
the Pacific. 


Thus far of the canal across the Isthmus. The Lake 
of Nicaragua is navigable for ships of the largest class 
down to the mouth of the river San Juan (where it 
quits the lake). This river has a fall of one foot and 
six-sevenths per mile, to the Atlantic. If the bed of 
the river cannot be cleared out, a communication can 
be made either by lock and dam, or by a canal along 
the bank of the river. The latter would be more ex- 
pensive, but on account of the heavy floods of the 
rainy season it is preferable. 

The total length of the canal from sea to sea would 
be little short of 200 miles, viz. 15^ from the Pacific to 
the lake, 56^ across the lake, and 119 to the Atlantic: 
total 191 miles. 

The estimate is : — 

From the lake to the west end of the tunnel £1,500,000 

Descent to the Pacific 500,000 

From the Atlantic by canal along the river 2,500,000 

4| millions. £4,500,000 

The Emperor Napoleon proposed to avoid the diffi- 
culty of cutting through the Rocky Ridge, by carrying 
the canal forward through Lake Leon or Managua, to 
the Port of Realejo, or the Gulf of Fonseca, on the 
Pacific Ocean. This lake, according to statements made 
by Mr. Baily, is about 45 miles in length, and 105 miles 
in circumference ; its greatest breadth being about 27 
miles. The average depth of water is 10 fathoms, and 
its surface 28 feet 8 inches higher than the Lake of 
Nicaragua, with which it communicates by the river 


Tipitapa. The length of this river is stated to be 20 
miles, and for a distance of 14 miles from the Lake of 
Nicaragua the water is from one fathom to three fathoms 
in depth, but beyond this there are rapids, and in a dis- 
tance of four miles and a half, a fall of 13 feet. 




The next point of interest as regards canalization is 
Chiriqui Lagoon, lat. 9° 8' N., long. 81° 57' W. This 
port, or rather series of ports, is beyond doubt one of the 
finest and most capacious harbours in the world ; it may 
fairly be compared with Rio de Janeiro. From Chiriqui 
it has been proposed to construct a canal to the river 
David, which empties itself into the Pacific, and this 
route has met with warm advocates ; but unfortunately 
David does not afford any port at its mouth, and would 
require a considerable outlay before it could offer the 
commonest facilities as an entrepot. I made an excur- 
sion up the river some years ago, but cannot regard it 
as fitted for such a purpose, or as likely to be made so 
by any expenditure at all compatible with the require- 
ments of modern speculators. 

David lies in lat. 8° 23' N., long. 82° 27' W., on the 
left bank of the river of the same name, in a beautiful 
plain, and is surrounded by the villages of Gualaca, Do- 
lega, Boqueron, and Bugaba, and by mountains of con- 
siderable elevation. On the south-west rises the volcano 


of Chiriqui, a peak 7000 feet high ; on the north, the 
Galera de Chorcha, a flat table-mountain, which, as the 
first part of its name indicates, has some resemblance 
to a gallery or corridor ; from the top a waterfall de- 
scends, over huge blocks of granite, several hundred 
feet in depth. During the wet season, when great 
quantities of water are discharged, it is very conspicuous, 
resembling from a distance a stream of silver, and serv- 
ing navigators as a landmark in making Boca Chica, 
the seaport of David. 

David has about six hundred houses, built of wood 
and clay, and generally one story high, and being all 
whitewashed, they form several neat-looking streets. 
There is only one church, which stands in the centre of 
the public square, where also the government offices are 
situated. The town contained in 1843, according to 
official statements, 4321 inhabitants ; their number is 
however yearly augmented by immigration. Several 
French, Italians, and North Americans have settled 
there, and it is principally owing to their exertions that 
David has risen within the last fifteen years from a pal- 
try hamlet to a prosperous town. Though the Davi- 
denians are mostly a mixed race, the number of whites 
is considerable ; their employment consists in breeding 
cattle, agriculture, and commerce. The exports of the 
place are rice, coffee, sarsaparilla, pearls, hides, turtle- 
shells, dried meat, and some gold dust. Several other 
natural productions might be advantageously shipped. 
The Corpachi (Croton ffluteria, Swartz), the bark of 
which is used in the country against toothache, and is 
also of commercial value, grows plentifully in the forests ; 


the Quira (Platymiscium polystachyum, Benth.) is found 
In abundance in the neighbourhood, and the Saumerio 
(Styrax pwictatum, De Cand.), producing an odoriferous 
balsam, a substitute for frankincense in Veraguas, is 
seen in extensive groves in the adjacent mountains. At 
present, all the produce has to be carried to Panama ; but 
when a road to Bocas del Toro has been completed, and 
a direct communication with North America established, 
many productions which at present are not worth send- 
ing, will be exported with advantage.* The climate of 
David, if compared with that of other parts of the isth- 
mus, is particularly healthy. Longevity is common; 
few of the cutaneous eruptions so frequent in other 
districts of the Isthmus are experienced ; the common 
fever of the country being the predominant disease, and 
even this malady is only prevalent during the change of 
season. The climate is annually improving ; if we may 
believe the tradition of the country, the rainy season a 
hundred years ago was most violent, making it neces- 
sary to navigate from house to house in canoes. 

The intervening land is of gradual ascent, but the 
central ridge is of such a height as to render cutting or 
tunneling in that vicinity for a canal a very questionable 
proceeding. M. Hellert examined the route, and found 
it to present the most formidable obstacles ; the locality 
however possesses many and great advantages, so much 
so indeed that the Federal Government have fixed upon 
it as the best place for the deportation of their surplus 
coloured population ; and it will not be at all surprising 

* The prospectus of a company desirous of making this road was issued 
some years back in London, but the undertaking fell to the ground. 


if this act eventually leads to the formation of a rail or 
tramway from sea to sea. Mr. Wheelwright found coal 
of tolerable quality in the vicinity, and the entire line 
of country, unlike Panama, offers every inducement for 
colonization. There is one great objection to the con- 
struction of a railway, and that is that the Republic of 
New Granada, of which this is a part, has given the 
exclusive right of transit through its territories to the 
Panama Railway Company ; but it is not a trifle, as we 
all know, which will deter the Federal Government if 
it sets its heart upon an object. And as the subject 
cannot but be of great interest to England, it has been 
thought advisable to introduce in this place President 
Lincoln's speech, and the programme of the first effort 
at colonization and — Transit! 


A deputation of coloured men waited upon the Presi- 
dent on the 14th of August, 1862, to hear his views upon 
their position. " After a few preliminary observations, 
the President informed the deputation that a sum of 
money had been appropriated by Congress and placed at 
his disposition for the purpose of aiding the colonization 
in some country of the people, or a portion of them, of 
African descent, thereby making it his duty, as it had for 
a long time been his inclination, to favour that course. 
' And why,' he asked, ' should not the people of your race 
be colonized ] Why should they leave this country'? This 
is perhaps the first question for proper consideration. 
You and we are a different race. We have between us a 

president Lincoln's speech. 139 

broader difference than exists between almost any other 
two races. Whether it is right or wrong I need not dis- 
cuss, but this physical difference is a great disadvantage 
to us both, as I think your race suffer greatly, many of 
them, by living with us, while ours suffer from your pre- 
sence : in a word, we suffer on each side. If this is ad- 
mitted, it affords a reason why we should be separated. 
You, here, are free men, I suppose. (A voice : 'Yes, Sir.') 
Perhaps you have long been free, or all your lives. Your 
race are suffering, in my opinion, the greatest wrong in- 
flicted on any people. But even when you cease to be 
slaves^ you are yet far removed from being placed on an 
equality with the white race. You are cut off from many 
of the advantages which the other race enjoy. The as- 
piration of man is to enjoy equality with the best when 
free ; but on this broad continent not a single man of 
yonr race is made the equal of ours. Go where you are 
treated the best, and the ban is still upon you. I do not 
propose to discuss this, but to present it as a fact with 
which we have to deal. I cannot alter it if I would. It 
is a fact about which we all think and feel alike, I and 
you. We look to our conditions owing to the existence 
of the two races on this continent. I need not recount 
to you the effects upon white men growing out of the 
institution of slavery. I believe in its general evil effects 
on the white race. See our present condition, — the coun- 
try engaged in war ; our white men cutting one another's 
throats, none knowing how far it will extend, — and then 
consider what we know to be the truth. But for your 
race among us there could not be a war. Although 
many men engaged on either side do not care for you one 


way or the other, nevertheless I repeat, without the in 
stitution of slavery and the coloured race as a basis, the 
war could not have an existence. It is better for us both, 
therefore, to be separated. I know that there are free men 
among you, who, even if they could better their condi- 
tion, are not as much inclined to go out of the country 
as those who, being slaves, could obtain their freedom 
on this condition. I suppose one of the principal dif- 
ficulties in the way of colonization is, that the free co- 
loured man cannot see that his comfort would be ad- 
vanced by it. You may believe you can live in Wash- 
ington or elsewhere in the United States the remainder of 
your life, perhaps, more comfortably than you can in any 
foreign country. Hence you may come to the conclu- 
sion that you have nothing to do with the idea of going 
to a foreign country. This (I speak in no unkind sense) 
is an extremely selfish view of the case. But you ought 
to do something to help those who are not so fortunate 
as yourselves. There is an unwillingness on the part of 
our 'people, harsh as it may he, for you free coloured 
people to remain with us. No ; if you could give a start 
to the white people, you would open a wide door for 
many to be made free. We deal with those who are not 
free at the beginning, and those whose intellects are 
clouded by slavery. We have very poor material to start 
with. If intelligent eoloured people, such as are before 
me, would move in this matter, much might be accom- 
plished. It is exceedingly important that we have men 
at the beginning capable of thinking as white men, 
and not those who have been systematically depressed. 
There is much to encourage you. For the sake of your 


race you should sacrifice something of your present com- 
fort, for the purpose of being as grand in that respect as 
the white people. It is a cheering thought throughout 
life that something can be done to ameliorate the condi- 
tion of those who have been subject to the hard usages 
of the world. It is difficult to make a man miserable 
while he feels he is worthy of himself, and claims kin- 
dred to the great God who made him. In the American 
revolutionary war sacrifices were made by men engaged 
in it, but they were cheered by the future. General 
Washington endured greater physical hardship than if 
he had remained a British subject, yet he was a happy 
man, because he was engaged in benefiting his race, in 
bestowing something on the children of his neighbours, 
having none of his own. The colony of Liberia has been 
in existence a long time. In a certain sense it is a suc- 
cess. The old President of Liberia, Eoberts, has just 
been with me, — the first time I ever saw him. He says 
they have within the bounds of that colony between 
300,000 and 400,000 people, or more than in some of our 
old States, such as Rhode Island or Delaware. They are 
not all American colonists or their descendants. Some- 
thing less than 12,000 have been sent thither from this 
country. Many of the original settlers have died, yet, 
like people elsewhere, their offspring outnumber those 
deceased. The question is, if the coloured people are 
persuaded to go anywhere, why not there I One reason 
for an unwillingness to do so is, that some of you would 
rather remain within reach of the country of your nati- 
vity. I do not know how much attachment you may 
have towards our race. It does not strike me that 


you have the greatest reason to love them, but still you 
are attached to them at all events. The place I am 
thinking about for a colony is Central America. It is 
nearer us than Liberia — not more than one-fourth as far 
as Liberia — and within seven days' run by steamers. 
Unlike Liberia, it is on a great line of travel — it is a 
highway. The country is a very excellent one for any 
people, and with great natural resources and advantages, 
and especially because of the similarity of the climate 
with your native land, — thus being suited to your physi- 
cal condition. The particular place I have in view is to 
be a great highway from the Atlantic or Caribbean Sea 
to the Pacific Ocean; and this particular place has all 
the advantages for a colony. On both sides there are 
harbours among the first in the world. Again, there are 
evidences of very rich coal-mines. A certain amount 
of coal is valuable in any country, and there may be 
more than enough for the wants of the country. 
Why I attach so much importance to coal is, it will 
afford an opportunity to the inhabitants for immediate 
employment, until they get ready to permanently ' set- 
tle ' in their homes. If you take colonists where there 
is no good landing, there is a bad start, and so also 
where there is nothing to cultivate, and with which to 
make a farm ; but if something is started, so that you 
can get your daily bread as soon as you reach there, it is 
a great advantage. Coal land is the best thing I know 
of with which to commence an enterprise. You have 
been talked to on this subject, and told that a specula- 
tion is intended by gentlemen who have an interest in 
the country including the coal-mines. We have been 



a mistaken all our lives if we do not know that whites as 
well as blacks look to their self-interest, unless among 
those deficient in intellect. Everybody you trade with 
makes something. You meet with these things here and 
elsewhere. If such persons have what will be an advan- 
tage to them, the question is whether it cannot be made 
of advantage to you. You are intelligent, and know that 
success does not so much depend on external help as 
self-reliance ; much, therefore, depends upon yourselves. 
As to the coal-mines, I think I see the means avail- 
able for your self-reliance. I shall, if I get a sufficient 
number of you engaged, have provision made that you 
shall not be wronged. If you will engage in the en- 
terprise, I will spend some of the money entrusted to 
me. I am not sure you will succeed. The Govern- 
ment may lose the money, but we cannot succeed un- 
less we try ; we think that with care we can succeed. 
The 'political affairs in Central America are not quite in 
as satisfactory a condition as I wish. There are contend- 
ing factions in that quartet ; but it is time all the fac- 
tions agreed alike on the subject of colonization. To 
your race they have no objection. Besides, I would 
endeavour to have you made equals, and have the best 
assurance that you should be the equals of the best. 
The practical thing I want to ascertain is whether I can 
get a number of able-bodied men, with their wives 
and children, who are willing to go when I present 
evidence of encouragement and protection. Could I 
get a number of tolerably intelligent men with their 
wives and children, I think I could make a success- 
ful commencement. I want you to let me know whether 


this can be done or not. These are subjects of very- 
great importance, worthy of a month's study of a speech 
delivered in an hour. I ask you, then, to consider se- 
riously for yourselves, for your race, for the good of 
mankind, things that are not confined to the present ge- 
neration, but as 

" ' From age to age descends the lay, 
To millions yet to be, 
Till far its echoes roll away 
Into eternity.'" 

The chairman of the delegation briefly replied that 
they would hold a consultation, and in a short time give 
an answer. 

The President said, " Take your full time. No hurry 
at all." 

The delegation then withdrew. 

Senator S. C. Pomeroy had, by request of the President, 
organized a system of coloured emigration to Central 
America. The Government proposed to send out the 
emigrants in steamships, and provide them with all the 
necessary implements of labour, and also sustenance un- 
til they can gather a harvest.* With the concurrence of 
the President, the following advertisement was issued: — 


" The hour has now arrived in the history of your set- 
tlement upon this continent when it is within your own 
power to take one step that will secure, if successful, the 
elevation, freedom, and social position of your race upon 

* The Federal Government has abandoned the negro colonization scheme 
for the present, the Ministers of the Central American Eepublics having 
protested against its being carried out in their country. 


the American continent. The President of the United 
States has already signified his desire to carry out fully 
in the letter and spirit of the late Act of Congress the 
desire of the National Legislature, which made an ap- 
propriation to facilitate your emigration and settlement 
in some favourable locality outside of these States ; and 
at his request I have consented and agreed with him to 
aid you in organizing this emigration, and in selecting 
a locality that will be valuable and attractive to your 
people in itself, as well as give the promise to you and 
to us that it shall be a suitable location for a great, 
free, and prosperous people. I now address you as one 
awake to this momentous revolution in American his- 
tory, alive also to your interest in this conflict of arms, 
whereby you are led to hope that in this unsettling of 
established institutions your people may go free. This 
then is the hour for you to make one earnest effort to se- 
cure your own social position and independence, by co- 
operating with those who now reach out their hands to 
aid you. I ask you to do this by the pride you may have 
to make another exhibition to the world of the valour, 
heroism, and virtue of the coloured race ; by the love you 
may have for your struggling and oppressed people now 
among us, as well by the hopes you may indulge of 
making smooth and prosperous the pathway of coming- 

"I propose on the 1st day of October next (1862) to 
take with me 100 coloured men as pioneers in this 
movement, who, with their families, may equal the 
number of 500 souls, and for whose benefit the appro- 
priations in the Acts of Congress referred to were made. 


The President will provide us the means of transpor- 
tation and the protection of the settlement. Being fa- 
miliar with organizing and settling the early emigration 
to my own State (Kansas), I indulge the hope that that 
experience may be made serviceable to you. I am in 
earnest for the welfare of your people, present and pro- 
spective. I want you to consider this an auspicious 
period for you. If this travail and pain of the nation 
becomes the birthday of your freedom, let us plant you 
free and independent beyond the reach of the power 
that has oppressed you. Consider this as an opening 
by the wisdom of Divine Providence, when you are called 
of God to go with me to a country which your oppressed 
people are soon to receive for their inheritance. 

" I propose to examine, and if found satisfactory and 
promising, to settle you at Chiriqui, in New Granada 
(with the approval of the Government), only about one 
week's sail from Washington, D.C. All persons of the 
African race, of sound health, who desire to take with 
me the lead in this work will please send their names, 
their number, sex, and ages of the respective members 
of their families, and their post-office address, to me, at 
the city of Washington, D.C. No white person will be 
allowed as a member of the colony. I want mechanics 
and labourers, earnest, honest, and sober men ; for the 
interest of a generation, it may be of mankind, are in- 
volved in the success of this experiment, and with the 
approbation of the American people, and under the 
blessing of Almighty God, it cannot, it shall not fail. 


"United States Senate." 




More attention has been attracted to this portion of 
the Isthmus than to any other part, because it offers the 
narrowest impediment to joining the two seas. Of the 
various projects proposed, perhaps that of connecting the 
two rivers, Chagres and Rio Grande, by a short canal, 
and then deepening their beds, has been the most favour- 
ably received. The line has been thoroughly examined. 
but the nature of the country did not come up to ex- 
pectation, and the plan was consequently abandoned. 
The French Government under Louis Philippe mani- 
fested the most decided predilection for the Panama 
route, and caused it, in 1843, to be minutely surveyed 
by M. Napoleon Garella. He proposed to start from 
the little bay of Vaca del Monte, twelve miles west of 
Panama, and cross over to Limon Bay, two miles and a 
half east of Chagres, the summit to be tunnelled through 
(at least three miles from end to end). He estimated the 
cost at £5,000,000, the canal to be twenty-three feet in 

L 2 


depth, and forty-six feet in width. Monsieur Napoleon 
Garella winds up his report in the following words : — 

" It belonged," he says, " to the French Government, 
which has taken the initiative in so many purely scien- 
tific expeditions, to put itself at the head of a movement 
that will lead to the execution of a work which concerns 
the whole world, to place this question in its true light, 
and to bring the point into public discussion among the 
nations interested in it. 

" Without the pretension of having laid down a per- 
fect plan, I have, I believe, sufficiently fulfilled the ob- 
ject of the mission with w T hich I had the honour of being 
charged. The possibility of the junction of the two 
oceans at the Isthmus of Panama, appears to me now 
beyond a doubt, and I hope that those who peruse my 
work will participate in that opinion. The time has ar- 
rived for executing this important work; and France, 
which has taken the initiative in the real exploration of 
the Isthmus, owes it to herself, to her interests, and to 
the mission of civilization which she has filled so long 
among nations, to take also the initiative in the mea- 
sures to be proposed for securing its accomplishment." 

No one would attempt to deprive M. Garella of the 
merit which belongs to him, but it is much to be re- 
gretted that he has endeavoured to monopolize the 
credit due to others, especially that of Captain Lloyd, 
whose observations he freely avails himself of; indeed 
this section of the Panama route has been thoroughly 
examined by competent persons, English, French, and 
American, — Lieutenant Strain, U.S.N., Captain Lloyd, 
Mr. Stephens, Dr. Cullen, Mr. Wheelwright, M. Hellert, 


Admiral Horatio Austin, and a host of others, to whom 
the world is deeply indebted, and who have carried out 
their explorations in the teeth of hardships and dangers 
enough to daunt the most intrepid. All the routes 
proposed for a canal in this vicinity passed over or 
near the present line of the Panama Eailway, and if 
laying the iron road proved so difficult, some idea may 
be formed of the obstacles there would have been in the 
way of the construction of a canal. 

There remains yet another route to describe in this 
neighbourhood, and which , if judged by the narrowness 
of the intervening land, seemed to offer the best chance 
of any scheme yet proposed. That route is at the very 
shallowest part of the Isthmus, and would but little 
exceed thirty miles across. The Atlantic terminus would 
be at San Bias, and its Pacific at Chepo ; the latter 
place might be made into a port, there being anchorage 
between the mouth of the river and an island off its 
mouth, called Chepillo ; and the former could also be 
used, but the intervening land is said to be very difficult. 
Several attempts have been made to explore this route, 
but the natives offer the most determined opposition 
to any examination of their country ; for although only 
a few miles from Panama, they have never been con- 
quered, and maintain their independence to this day. 
Mr. Oliphant, who has lately been up the river Chepo, 
is inclined to believe that this is the real point for a 
transit. He was within twenty miles of the Atlantic, and 
saw no obstacle in the shape of high land. He could 
not however ascertain the height of the country, from 
the cause stated above. Mr. Wheelwright made the 


attempt some years ago, and was received with much 
hospitality and kindness ; but although the Indians are 
as much attached to the English as they are inveterate 
against the Spanish race, they positively refused to per- 
mit him to proceed. Another gentleman was told by 
one of the chiefs, with whom he was on friendly terms, 
that if he attempted to cross the country he would be 
the first to drive an arrow through him. At present 
the knowledge which might be gained would not be 
worth the risk attending the attempt. 

The following extract is of too much interest to need 
any excuse for its insertion in this place :* — 

"The Indians who at present inhabit the Isthmus 
are said to amount to about ten thousand. They are 
scattered over Bocas del Toro, the northern portions of 
Veraguas, the north-eastern shores of Panama, and 
almost the whole of Darien, and consist principally of 
four tribes, the Savanerics, the San Bias Indians, the 
Bayanos, and the Cholas. Every tribe speaks a different 
language, aiid they not unfrequently wage war against 
each other. 

"The Savanerics occupy the northern portion of 
Veraguas, and appear to be most numerous in a district 
situated a few days' journey from the village of Las Pal- 
mas. One of their chiefs has adopted the pompous 
title of King Lora Montezuma, and pretends to be a de- 
scendant of the Mexican emperor. Almost every year 
he sends some ambassadors to Santiago, the capital of 
Veraguas, to inform the authorities that he is the legi- 
timate lord of the country, and that he protests against 

* Dr. Seemann, ' Voyage of H.M.S. Herald,' vol. i. pp. 317-22. 


any assumption on the part of the New Granadian 
Government. Although no credit can be attached to 
the belief that King Lora is a descendant of the great 
Montezuma, yet there is reason to suppose, and future 
investigations may tend to corroborate the supposition, 
that his subjects are a distant branch of the great family 
of Anahuac. A direct intercourse still existed, at the 
time of the Discovery, between the southern portions of 
the Mexican empire and Veraguas. Little golden eagles, 
the national emblems of Mexico, are frequently met 
with in the tombs of the district, and chocolate is still 
the prevalent drink. Such facts are indeed quite im- 
portant enough in themselves to draw upon this tribe 
the attention of the ethnologist. Unfortunately no Eu- 
ropean has as yet had time to study, and the Spanish 
inhabitants are too indolent, and, it may be added, too 
much prejudiced against the Indians, to be ever able to 
draw correct conclusions, or to make proper use of the 
rich ethnological materials scattered around them. 

" The Manzanillo or San Bias Indians inhabited the 
north-eastern portion of the province of Panama. They 
occasionally visit Portobello and the neighbouring vil- 
lages, and live almost in constant feud with the Bayanos. 
They are probably the same tribe which came in con- 
flict with Columbus's crew during his fourth voyage of 
discovery, when, unlike most savages, they exhibited no 
fear at the discharge of the cannon. The thunder of 
man probably appeared to them but insignificant when 
compared with the terrible tornadoes so frequently visit- 
ing their coast. All, however, must remain a matter of 
conjecture until we know more, or, to speak plainly, 


until we know something about them. At present our 
knowledge of this tribe is merely nominal, and of its 
language we are ignorant. 

M The Bayanos inhabit the district about the river 
Chepo, and are a martial people, who, up to this time, 
have preserved their independence, jealously guarding 
their territory against the white man. Their dislike to 
Spaniards and their descendants is intense, and strongly 
contrasts with their friendly disposition towards the 
British, a feeling entertained since the days of Dam- 
pier and Wafer.* Annually British vessels touch at 
the northern coast for the purpose of trading ; and it is 
probably from that source some of the Bayanos have 
obtained a smattering of English. Their cacique has 
frequently paid visits to the British representative at 
Panama, yet there the friendship ended. The Consul, 
on asking permission to show the same mark of atten- 
tion to the chief, was told that no European was al- 
lowed to enter their country, and if the Consul should 
attempt such a j ourney it would cost him his life. 

" The Cholo Indians are one of the most widely dif- 
fused tribes of tropical America, extending, as they 
do, from the Gulf of San Miguel to the Bay of Choco, 
and thence, with a few interruptions, to the northern 
parts of the Republic of Ecuador. We can follow 
them all along the coast, from lat. 2° 0' to 8° 30' N., 
recognizing them by their peculiar mode of raising their 
habitations upon posts six or eight feet above the 
ground. The fact that the Cholos have such a wide 

* Observe the close resemblance between the Bayanos and the Mosquito 


range, explains an historical puzzle. When reading of 
the discovery of Peru, how the Spaniards gradually- 
pushed southwards along the shores of America, every- 
where inquiring after the empire of the Incas, and even 
obtaining information of the city of Cuzco, we are at a 
loss to explain how the discoverers could understand 
the stories related to them, how the two parties could 
make themselves intelligible. Even the best historians 
have not explained this puzzle. But the fact that the 
same language is spoken from San Miguel to the north- 
ern boundaries of Ecuador, where the Quichua com- 
mences, and that it was familiar to the Spaniards before 
starting on their expedition, renders the proceeding in- 
telligible. We now comprehend how the existence of 
the empire of the Incas could be known on the banks of 
the Churchunque, how Balboa could receive intelligence 
of the llama and other productions of Peru, and how the 
barks of Pizarro could collect information from the lips 
of natives, who never before had beheld the face of a 
white man." 




Several plans have been proposed, and various routes 
have been well surveyed in Darien, which appears to 
have been that part of the Isthmus the great Hum- 
boldt was inclined to look upon as the most favourable 
for a canal. In the first place, a cut was proposed from 
Port Escoces or some point in Caledonia Bay, on the 
Atlantic, and proceeding in a south-westerly direction, 
to terminate in the Bay of San Miguel, in the Pacific ; 
a distance of about thirty-nine miles. Attention was 
first directed to this route by Dr. Cullen, in 1850, who 
averred that he had repeatedly crossed the Isthmus at 
this point, in which respect much controversy has arisen. 
The correctness of Dr. Cullen's survey was questioned 
by Mr. Lionel Gisborne (Assoc. Inst. C. E.), who subse- 
quently surveyed the route, on behalf of Messrs. Fox, 
Henderson, and Company, but who did not at first suc- 
ceed in crossing from one side to the other, and when 
he did, only sufficiently examined it to be able, in his 


opinion, to pronounce on the practicability of the scheme. 
He reported favourably of the capabilities of Port Es- 
coces and Caledonia Bay, on the Atlantic, as also of the 
entrance into the so-called Darien Harbour, on the Pa- 
cific, from the Gulf of San Miguel, by the Boca Chica. 
He proposed following the Savana and its tributary the 
Lara, and thence cutting a canal over the summit-level, 
which he estimated at only 150 feet, to the Caledonia 
river. This project might be executed either with or 
without locks. The following is that gentleman's re- 
port to his employers : — 

"To Messrs. Fox, Henderson, and Brassey. 

" Gentlemen, — Having made arrangements with Sir Charles 
Fox to ascertain the practicability of an interoceanic naviga- 
tion for the largest ships, at all times of the tide, across the 
Isthmus of Darien, between Port Escoces on the Atlantic and 
San Miguel on the Pacific, and having made such preparations 
as I could in this country, I sailed with my assistant, Mr. Henry 
C. Forde, on the 2nd of April last, from Southampton to Car- 
tagena, where we arrived on the 1st of May. Here we com- 
pleted our arrangements, chartered the schooner ( Yeloz/ sailed 
for Port Escoces on the 12th of June, and anchored in that port 
on the 15th. 

"At Cartagena we obtained information which fully con- 
firmed what we had been led to expect from the little we 
gathered before leaving England, — that no strangers had been 
allowed to visit the interior since the buccaneers assisted the 
natives in repelling the Spaniards nearly two hundred years 
ago ; that it was in vain to think of obtaining from these jealous 
savages permission to enter their territory ; and that to do so 
without their permission was hazardous in the extreme. Yet 
as it was generally supposed that the summit -level between the 
two oceans was near the Atlantic coast, and it was therefore 
important to ascertain whether that was the fact, we deter- 


mined to make the attempt. From the schooner the Cordil- 
leras appeared to run in an unbroken range. We landed on 
the morning of the 1 7th of June, and crossed this range with- 
out any obstacle, ascertaining the lowest point visible from the 
seaboard to be 276 feet high. 

" Beyond this point we followed a small stream, which led us 
to a larger river flowing from the south-west, in a semicircular 
sweep towards the north. A flat plain extended to the south- 
west, in the direction of the Gulf of San Miguel, as far as the 
eye could reach ; looking over the tops of the trees from a 
bluff about one hundred feet high, which we ascended for the 
purpose, we obtained an uninterrupted view for at least six 
miles in that direction. 

" We followed the course of the river to the north until dark. 
Early on the following morning two Indians in a canoe came in 
sight, who, upon perceiving us, instantly landed and fled to the 
woods. Proceeding on our journey ^ we met, a few hours after- 
wards, a woman and two children (one an albino), from whom 
we were unable to derive any information. We had scarcely 
passed her when a canoe suddenly appeared with five well- 
armed Indians in it, who made us understand that we were to 
follow them, which we thought it prudent to do. 

" They led us, fortunately, along the course of the river, 
which gradually assumed a more easterly direction, winding- 
am ong the hills that overlapped each other, until we reached a 
village at its mouth in Caledonia Bay. We were thus singularly 
assisted in our object by the discovery of a passage through the 
range of the Cordilleras, which had been heretofore supposed 
to be unbroken. Here an Indian, who spoke a little English, 
and seemed a principal man in his tribe, questioned us as to 
our object in entering their territory. Thereupon a meeting 
was held of the chief men, who detained us as prisoners. After 
several hours, and with great difficulty, we prevailed on them 
to allow us to return to our vessel, on the condition, however, 
that we should set sail instantly, and upon the understanding if 
we were again caught in the interior, more summary measures 
would be adopted. Five or six Indians accompanied us to 


Port Escoces, about five miles off (where our vessel was lying), 
and they remained until the afternoon, when we were well clear 
of the coast. 

" Our great object had, however, been obtained in finding 
that the Cordilleras, which appeared from the sea a continuous 
range, had an intervening valley, and that the summit between 
the two oceans must be in the centre of the Isthmus, if not 
nearer the Pacific coast. 

" It had also been ascertained that Port Escoces, though 
rather small for the terminus of a great ship navigation, would 
make an excellent harbour of refuge, and that Caledonia Bay, 
as far as I had an opportunity to examine it, was most admir- 
ably calculated to serve the purposes of a harbour to the con- 
templated undertaking. 

a We now sailed for Navy Bay, and thence crossed the Isth- 
mus to Panama, where we arrived on the 25th of June. Here we 
hired a small schooner of twelve tons burden, sailed on the 
2 7th for the Gulf of San Miguel, and arrived in the night of the 
29th at Boca Chica, the entrance of Darien Harbour. We 
proceeded on the following day to the examination of the Sa- 
vana river. At its mouth we found it two miles wide, nar- 
rowing for seven miles above to a width of half a mile, and 
skirted by hills from two to three hundred feet high, running 
within a mile or two of its banks. The depth of the river 
varies from nine to six fathoms at low water ; and soundings 
gave us a soft muddy bottom. From this point to the junction 
with the river Lara, the depth diminishes till the bottom be- 
comes level with mid-tide. The tide rises for five miles further 
up the Savana to a fall of about two feet over a stratum of 
rock crossing the stream diagonally NJE. by E. at a dip of 60°. 
The same class of rock appears both at the bottom and the 
sides. The course of the Savana beyond tidal influence is 

" On the morning of the 2nd of July we began our land journey 
to the north-east in the direction of Caledonia Bay. For the first 
two miles the country was level and less overgrown than on the 
Atlantic side, which made our progress comparatively rapid. 


" We then crossed a range of hills which we ascertained to 
be 100 feet high. After passing a valley in which was the con- 
fluence of two small streams, we crossed a second range of 
130 feet high, forming the summit between the Savana and 
Caledonia rivers ; at the foot a stream flowed nearly due east. 
We followed it for two miles, which led us to a larger one, 
the course of which we traced. At this point a clear view to 
the north-east, towards Caledonia Bay, showed a flat plain 
with no intervening hills. . . . Our commanding view, for at 
least six miles, from an elevation of 100 feet, was perfectly 
conclusive with regard to the few miles seen and not actu- 
ally walked over. We therefore accepted the admonition of 
a footpath and a bridge formed by the trunk of a tree placed 
across the river at this point, that we were again in the terri- 
tory of the Indians into whose hands we had fallen at Cale- 
donia Bay, and that our object being accomplished, it was un- 
wise to incur further risk from the Indians by walking over 
these six miles, thinking it best for the success of the under- 
taking to retrace our steps at once. 

" On mapping our route, I found that the point I [of my map] 
was too high up the Savana river for the shortest junction be- 
tween it and the Caledonia. We therefore ascended the river 
Lara, which ran in a more easterly direction ; the tide carried 
us up six miles, the width narrowing from 300 feet to 30 feet. 
Some falls of a few inches each are caused by a rock of the same 
character as that of the Savana ; its course is very tortuous ; for 
the five miles I examined beyond tidal action the bottom was 
uniformly rock, and it became an insignificant stream. After 
mapping the direction, I feel confident that its source is the 
confluence of the small streams found in the valley between the 
two ranges of hills previously mentioned. 

"The gravel banks in the Savana and Lara rivers are 
composed of the detritus of igneous and stratified rock. The 
latter is the same as that forming the falls on both rivers ; its 
dip being from 60° to near 90°, and its strike varying from 
north-east to south-east. 

" The general character of the country is that of a flat plain, 


subject to inundation at high tides for a considerable distance 
out, and covered with mangrove wood, whose high interlacing 
roots growing out of soft mud, render walking impossible. 
Beyond tidal influence the banks rise five to ten feet above 
ordinary water-level, and are covered with the finest timber I 
have seen on the Isthmus, — cedar, mahogany, ebony, lignum- 
vitse, cuipa, palms, and other trees. 

" On the 9th of July we returned to San Miguel. This bay is 
naturally divided, by a promontory and a chain of islands, into 
a roadstead and a magnificent harbour. Captain Kellett's un- 
published chart, supplied by the Admiralty, shows only a part 
of the former. I have made a survey of the remainder, and the 
general features are represented on my maps, as also those of 
Darien Harbour. I did not examine Boca Grande, as I un- 
derstood from the natives that the navigation through it is 
rendered dangerous by rocks, and as Boca Chica, on account of 
its depth and position, is far more advantageous. 

" I do not think it is possible to exaggerate the merits of 
this part of the Isthmus as the terminus of a great ship naviga- 
tion ; it requires but an examination of the map to be convinced 
of this fact. 

« We returned to Navy Bay, and sailed for England on the 
24th July, where we arrived on the 1 7th instant. 

""On Map No. 1, I have shown in red colour the topo- 
graphical facts which have been ascertained by personal investi- 
gation, with sections of the portions traversed. From this it 
will be collected that the harbours of San Miguel and Caledonia 
are both excellent as the termini of a ship navigation on the 
largest scale, with Port Escoces as a harbour of refuge, should 
circumstances occur to render its use necessary ; that the Sa- 
vana river has six fathoms or upwards in depth at low water, 
for a distance of seven miles from its mouth, the effect of the 
tide reaching up the Lara tributary eleven miles above this, 
or eighteen miles from Darien Harbour, leaving a distance of 
thirty miles to Caledonia Bay, which is the actual breadth of 
the Isthmus between the tidal effect of the two oceans ; that the 
summit-level is ascertained to be 150 feet, and is formed by a 


narrow range of hills, having a gradually rising plain at their 
foot on each side. There is every reason to believe that a more 
detailed examination of this division of waters will result in a 
considerably lower summit being found; but this, under the 
circumstances of the section, is not such an important point as 
might at first be supposed, the narrowness of the ridge making 
the cubic quantity through it very small compared to the ex- 
cavation through the plains ; so that, should the hills depress 
into the actual level of the plains, the estimate will not be 
materially affected. The bulk of the work to be done is in 
the plains themselves, and the cost will be proportionate to the 
cross-section adopted, or, in other words, the depth and breadth 
of the navigation required. The question, therefore, resolves 
itself into what are the necessities of commerce as to an inter- 
oceanic water communication. 

" I do not consider it necessary to enter into the merits of 
this question. My instructions are to design a navigation ca- 
pable of passing with security at all times the largest vessels 
navigating the two oceans, not with a view to a local coasting 
trade, but for the accommodation of the whole maritime world. 

" There are two methods of accomplishing this object : — 

" 1st. To make a cut of sufficient capacity to form an unin- 
terrupted navigation (without locks) from sea to sea. 

" 2nd. A navigation with locks on a scale suitable to the ob- 
ject in view. 

" There can be no doubt that the carrying out of the first 
proposition will comply in the fullest sense with the require- 
ments of all classes of vessels, and, when completed, will best 
supply the want of a natural connection between the oceans. 
Its execution offers no engineering difficulties, and no chance of 
future failure ; it is simply a question of cubic quantity of ex- 
cavation dependent on the dimensions of the cross-section. 

" Many large merchantmen and men-of-war draw from 24 to 
28 feet of water, and oceanic steamers measure 350 feet over 
all, with a breadth of 70 to 74 feet across the paddle-boxes. 
Ship- building is not at a stand, — on the contrary, the size of 
vessels is rapidly on the increase ; in such an undertaking it is 


therefore reasonable to forestall progress by a timely conces- 
sion to it. I propose to make a cut 30 feet deep at low tide, 
140 feet broad at bottom, and 160 feet at low water's surface. 
Such a cut carried from sea to sea is not larger than the trade 
of the world requires, and will form a permanent, safe, and 
rapid mode of transit. 

" On the Pacific the tide rises twenty-three feet and on the 
Atlantic it is scarcely appreciable. Mid-tide is on a level, or 
nearly so, in the two oceans, so that there will be a current 
both ways dependent on the ebb and flow of the Pacific. This 
current will not exceed three miles an hour, and will act most 
beneficially, not only as a scour to prevent deposit, but as an 
assistance in the transit of vessels. It will secure the passage 
being effected in one tide, and prevent the passing of vessels 
going different ways, as the direction of the trade will be in- 
fluenced by the ebb or flow of the Pacific tide. The material 
to be excavated through is chiefly rock (not expensive to 
quarry), so that this current will not wear away the banks, nor 
will the wash of passing steamers cause injury ; it also affords 
security against any interruption to the navigation from slips, 
and reduces the cost of maintenance to a nominal sum. This 
rock is a stratified shale with thinnish beds, easy to get, though 
sound, and will form an admirable side-lining to the naviga- 
tion dispensing with the necessity of any artificial protection. 
The fact of its existence is one of the most favourable fea- 
tures to the undertaking as regards permanence and certainty of 

" I estimate the cost of this design at £12,000,000. It must 
be remembered that no project has ever been before the public 
which embraces anything like the objects attained by such an 
uninterrupted navigation. All other propositions have but 
local importance, and look to their profits from local trade; this 
one is adapted to every ship afloat, and seeks a return from the 
trade of every country. Its completion will make a change in 
the carrying commerce of every Pacific port ; and as a railway 
makes its own traffic, so will this work, most certainly, greatly 
increase the commerce between the distantly separated countries 
which steam power is only now beginning to reach. 



" This is tlie design which, after mature consideration, I con- 
fidently recommend for adoption, and it is almost witli regret 
that I feel it my duty to submit any other, so sure am I that it 
is the only one which will satisfy the requirements of com- 

" My second proposition necessitates two levels joined by a 
series of locks. 

" I adhere to the cross-section of cut recommended in the 
previous design, as well as the fact of the navigation being open 
to the largest vessels at all times of the tide. 

"A tidal canal, supplied on the upper level at high water, 
would be a very imperfect navigation, and one-third more 
expensive than the design I am about to submit. I estimate 
the cost at about £7,000,000. It would involve all the dis- 
advantages of a canal, and offer many obstacles to be guarded 
against, such as the arrangements for draining the country on 
each side, without the risk of strong currents and shoals 
formed by deposit, and increase the time of transit considerably, 
by the small speed attainable by steamers in such a class of 
navigation. I cannot recommend it for the purposes intended. 

"It has been before mentioned that the Savana and Cale- 
donia rivers run into two extensive plains. They are unin- 
habited, and the land is uncultivated. It grows, however, fine 
timber, which, if means of transit were at hand, would be of 
considerable value. During the dry season, neither of these 
rivers, could, near their source, supply the water required at a 
summit-level of a navigation on the scale contemplated ; during 
the wet season, again, they discharge a large volume of water 
which, in an ordinary canal, would cause trouble and expense to 
regulate, and prevent accumulations of deposit. Under these 
circumstances, I propose placing an embankment across both 
these rivers, making the embankments long enough and high 
enough to raise the water at their back 90 feet above low tide 
in the Pacific. This will flood both plains up to the range of 
hills which forms the boundary of their catch water basins. 
Through the summit a cut is to be made of the same cross- 
section recommended in Design No. 1, but with 40 feet depth 
of water, so as to allow 10 feet to be drawn off the lake for 


lockage, or a rise of 10 feet to catch flood waters and prevent 
too rapid a current in the tidal entrances to the harbours. All 
the valuable timber in the lake must be cut previous to the 
water being let in, so that an easy means will be afforded 
to convey it to the harbours for shipment. From Caledonia 
Bay to the embankment, a cut will have to be made of the 
cross- section, adopted in the other design. The Savana 
is navigable up to the point where the embankment is to 

" The rise of 90 feet will have to be overcome by locks placed 
in the side of one of the ranges of hills against which the em- 
bankments terminate, and which are composed of rock ; weirs 
will also be provided to discharge surplus waters. 

" It is a serious undertaking to raise a large vessel 90 feet, 
without much loss of time. 

" I am fully prepared to meet this difficulty, and propose that 
the locks should be 400 feet long from mitre to mitre, and 90 
feet wide between the gate quoins. Each lock to have a lift of 
30 feet, to be overcome by wrought-iron gates. The large sup- 
ply at the summit level does away with the usual objection to a 
high lift wasting water. There will be no difficulty in con- 
structing the locks and gates of the dimensions proposed; stone, 
lime, and sand of excellent quality, are obtainable in more than 
one place on the line of country to be traversed. 

" Three locks will thus be required in each embankment, and 
I have estimated for two sets at each end ; the second set to be 
300 feet long and 50 feet wide, with 22 feet of water ou their 
cills. Thus, four vessels can be passed into the lake at the 
same time, and the larger locks only used for those adapted to 
their size. 

" For a navigation requiring the use of locks, I can submit 
this design with confidence. It possesses the facilities of deep 
still -water lake navigation, without the disadvantages attendant 
on the use of a canal. The concentration .of lockage in two 
places will save time. Great facility is also offered in the execu- 
tion of the work, by its not being spread over a large area and 
only a small portion of it below tidal level. The estimated cost 

M 2 


is £4,500,000 ; it is only about one-third of that set down for an 
uninterrupted cut from sea to sea, but the disadvantages are 
very great ; locks are decidedly objectionable in an undertaking 
of this magnitude and mercantile value. The best studied 
plans, carried out in the most perfect manner, cannot guard 
against accident or neglect, which may stop the whole transit 
for months. Delay and risk there must be, when such large 
machinery is worked, and there is no doubt shipowners would 
sooner pay a higher toll to pass directly from sea to sea, than 
run the risk and incur the delay of lock navigation. 

(< This question is not one on which a hasty opinion should 
be formed, nor must the decision be biassed by the disparity in 
the cost of the two measures. The real point is, which is of 
the greatest value to the mercantile community ? A far-seeing 
thinker cannot doubt that the level cut is the only one which 
will comply with the requirements of the world. 

" In framing the estimates, I have calculated wholly on im- 
ported labour, making a liberal allowance for the diminution of 
work to be expected in a tropical climate, and the extra wages 
necessary to induce parties to emigrate. This portion of the 
Isthmus of Darien is, without doubt, in one of the most healthy 
districts. Neither Mr. Forde nor I suffered in the least from 
the climate until our return to Panama, notwithstanding we 
were often for days together in the same wet clothes without a 
blanket to cover us at night, and living on bad provisions. 

" The reason of this comparative salubrity, is the absence of 
swamps or overflowings of the river-banks out of the range of 
the tide, and the general dry character of the surrounding dis- 

" I have purposely abstained from entering into any detail 
of the works contemplated, or the arrangements for carrying 
them out. My object has been to give a concise view of the 
facilities of the Darien route, the facts elicited by the examina- 
tion of the country by Mr. Forde and myself, and the best 
means of carrying out a project which has for centuries occupied 
the attention of Grovernuients and mercantile men, without 
much advance towards its completion. I cannot conclude, how- 


ever, without again earnestly recommending for adoption that 
design which will, without locks, at all times, permit the passage 
of the largest vessel. 

" I remain, Gentlemen, 

( ' Your obedient servant, 

" Lionel Gisbokne, C.E.* 
"41, Craven Street, Strand, 

" London, 28th August, 1852." 

Lieutenant Strain, of the United States Navy, was 
unable to find the routes and passes laid down by 
Mr. Gisborne ; and although he ultimately succeeded in 
crossing from the Atlantic to the Pacific coast, it was 
only after wandering in the valleys of the Chucunaque 
and the Savana for nearly three months, during which, 
the sufferings and privations they endured proved fatal 
to many of his party. The account of the trials and dif- 
ficulties they bravely encountered is very interesting : — 

On the 19th of January, 1854, Lieutenant Strain, of 
the U.S. corvette Cyane, landed from that ship in Cale- 
donia Bay, Darien, with a party composed of twenty- 
eight officers and men, supplied with ten days' pro- 
visions. Previous to setting off on the journey, which 
they hoped would not be of longer duration than a 
w r eek at most, an arrangement was made with the 
cacique of the Indians, from whom permission was 
obtained to explore his country, and some of the na- 

* Mr. Gisborne afterwards succeeded in crossing the Isthmus of Darien. 
He started a short time before the ill-fated American expedition, under 
Lieutenant Strain, and in five days reached the opposite side. There is 
no doubt, however, that all the labour, hardship, and suffering in this 
locality, has been thrown away as regards canalization. Mr. Gisborne is 
since dead, and therefore I have abstained from making any comment on 
his work. 


tives were ordered to accompany the Americans as 
guides. This, it afterwards appeared, was the plan of 
the cacique to dispose of his present visitors, and at 
the same time to deter future interlopers from mani- 
festing any disposition to put their foot upon the soil of 
Darien. The guides were directed to conduct the ill- 
fated party into the depths of the forest and there leave 
them, and these instructions were only too faithfully 
followed. The subsequent sufferings of Strain and his 
companions are almost beyond belief. They wandered 
hither and thither, without any clear idea of their 
whereabouts, strange to say, while one after the other 
lay down and died. The narrative of their trials is heart- 
rending, but they appear to have emulated the glorious 
conduct of our own Franklin, in his celebrated journey 
across the Barren Grounds, in displaying the most he- 
roic courage and fortitude. For sixty- three days these 
poor men wandered about without a particle of food 
beyond the roots and berries they were enabled to col- 
lect, when, on the 17th of March, Strain himself was 
rescued on the Pacific side of the Isthmus by Lieutenant 
Forsyth, H.M.S. Virago, who had been sent to look 
after him, and render any assistance in his power to the 
party. Strain instantly turned back with his English 
deliverers, and six days afterwards (the 23rd of March) 
had the joy of discovering his lost shipmates, a happi- 
ness participated in, to the fullest extent, by Lieutenant 
Forsyth and his companions. 

Six of the American expedition left their bones in 
Darien, the rest slowly recovered ; but Lieutenant Strain 
did not long survive the fearful shock to his constitu- 


tiori. His body lies buried on the line of the Panama 
Kailroad, near Monument Hill. 

The expedition under Captain Prevost, in 1853, after 
attaining an altitude of about 1200 feet, discovered no 
indications that they had even then reached the sum- 
mit. Similar attempts were made, about the same time, 
by parties under Colonel Codazzi and Captain Joureigui- 
berry, with results equally unsatisfactory. All these re- 
searches seem to demonstrate that the Sierras Lloranas 
extend in an unbroken chain, from the Bay of San 
Bias, westward to the Gulf of Uraba or Darien, and 
the decided hostility of the Indians is a matter on 
which all explorers agree. 

The following is the official journal of Commander 
Prevost, and is full of interest, besides being a valuable 
precedent as regards the daily progress in cutting 
through the primaeval forest : — 

"December 16th, 1853.— (Full Moon.) 8 p.m. Weighed and 
steamed from the anchorage of Taboga, near Panama,, shaping 
a course to pass inside the Pearl Islands. 11. Sighted Pacheca, 
the northernmost of the Pearl Islands. Daylight, off the Ea- 
rallon Ingles. 

"Saturday, 17th. — 8 a.m. Entered the Gulf of San Miguel, 
steering mid-channel between Points Brava and Garachine, to 
avoid the Buey Shoal, which extends some distance south of the 
former. The tide or current was strong against us ; general 
soundings from 6 to 8 fathoms, which deepened as we ap- 
proached Punta Patino. Passed through the Boca-Chica Pas- 
sage at low- water spring-tides ; lowest cast 7 fathoms. Entered 
the harbour of Darien, a magnificent sheet of water, and at 
2.30 p.m. anchored in the mouth of the Savana river. 

"Sunday, 18th. — 8.15 a.m. Discovered the ship dragging her 
anchor ; let go small bower and got steam up ; brought up 


outside the river in Darien Harbour, with 48 fathoms on each 
anchor. 10.30. Low water. Weighed and proceeded up the 
river. In picking up a berth, the ship grounded on the soft 
mud-bank off the right side of the river Savana; laid out 
kedge, let go small bower, and waited for the tide to flow. 3 
p.m. Ship floated, steamed to an anchorage in mid-channel, and 
moored with swivel, 36 fathoms on each anchor. We were 
shortly afterwards visited by the authorities from Chapigana, a 
village situated about 8 miles distant on the south bank of the 
Tuyra, containing about 150 inhabitants. These persons, viz. 
the Gefe Politico and Governor of the province, Don Manuel 
Borbina, the Alcalde, and Messrs. Hossack and Nelson, Scotch- 
men, gave us every information in their power of the route we 
were about to take, and obtained for us all the native assistance 
we required. 

"Monday, 19th. — About noon a party in the cutter and gig, 
with a canoe for the Indians, left the ship fully armed and 
equipped, with fourteen days' provisions. 

" The latitude and longitude of two principal points being 
given, viz. Fuerte del Principe, lat. 8° 34/ N.,* long. 77° 56' 
W., and Port Escoces,lat. 8° 50' K, long. 77 b 41' W., I deemed 
it better to work out our route as a course and distance, and 
cut our road accordingly; rather than trust to the uncertainty of 
the published maps, which appear to differ materially from each 
other. The survey made by Mr. W. Hay don, acting second 
master of this ship, shows the course followed by the boats as 
far as the islands ' Fairfax ' and l Eliza/ which we reached at 
.3 p.m., and were joined by two more native guides (hunters) in 
a small canoe, who promised to accompany the expedition as 
carriers. Beyond this, the Savana forms a reach about 3 miles 
long in a N.N.W. direction. Its western bank is entirely lost 
among small islets and other streams running into it, forming a 
long, shallow mud -bank, the channel being apparently on the 
eastern side, where, at half- tide, we found 5 fathoms. At 3.45 

* "The positions of these places are, according to Mr. Gisborne's recent 
survey (as laid down in his MS. map), also adopted in an Admiralty 
Chart, just published, Fuerte del Principe, lat. 8° 44' N., long. 78° 8' W., 
and Port Escoces, lat. 8° 51' N., long. 77° 36§' W." 


f.m. we were abreast of a point opening into a straight reach, 
and beyond it a conspicuous bill was visible, which our guide 
named ( Periaki/ estimated by us at about 300 feet in height ; 
further than this there were no hills. Following this reach 
about 3 miles, the river suddenly narrowed to 60 yards, taking 
a sharp turn towards the N.E., bringing Periaki before us ; 
thence the turns of the river became sharp and tortuous, our 
soundings giving only one fathom, and the banks consisting of 
mangrove-trees and swampy land. 5 p.m. Peached the mouth 
of the Lara, the Savana running N.N.W. about 30 yards wide, 
its turnings sharp and stream sluggish ; about one mile above 
this, the eastern side began to assume banks, with large trees, 
the western side still swampy. 5.30 p.m. Abreast of Matuma- 
ganti, a small stream on the W. bank. A mile above this, our 
guide pointed out a spot on the same bank, said to have been in 
former days the Spanish settlement of Fuerte del Principe ; the 
absence of forest trees, and the presence of brushwood and 
young shrubs, was the only indication we could perceive. A 
short distance beyond this, as the sun had gone down, we were 
glad to stop for the night at an old rancho on the western bank, 
the boats now only just afloat in the middle of the stream. 

" Tuesday, 20th. — Taking advantage of the flowing tide, we 
passed a small stream on the W. bank, by our guide called f La 
Villa.'' This was about a mile from our rancho ; and half a 
mile higher up we were stopped by falls and rocks crossing the 
river diagonally in several places. We had now ascended the 
river about 22 miles from its mouth; the tide appears to flow 
as high as this point, but only for half an hour ; this obliged 
me to land the party here, and unload the boats. In addition 
to a tent, a large rancho was provided on the E. bank of the 
river, and the stores and provisions were left in charge of Mr. 
Hornby, midshipman, with a petty officer and twelve men, all 
well armed. During this short detention I ascended the river, 
accompanied by Mr. Kennish, a volunteer, in a piragua, which 
had to be carried over the various falls abounding at this point, 
called by our canoemen Point Chepo, some Indians of that 
tribe having once settled there. Alternately walking along the 
banks and poling in the canoe, we ascended with some difficulty 


about 3 miles, when the river became so winding, shallow, and 
blocked up with fallen trees, etc., that we were obliged to re- 
turn. We were told that in the month of July we could have 
ascended two days' journey until we reached its source. Its 
banks assumed a more perfect form, and the debris collected 
on the overhanging branches of the trees gave evident signs of 
the height and rapidity with which the stream runs during the 
floods of the rainy season. On my return to Kancho No. 1, I 
found all our party equipped and ready for a start, with the 
exception of the two native volunteers of the previous night ; 
their hearts had failed them, and they remained behind with 
their countrymen, the huntsmen. 

"Mr. Kennish had orders to steer N.N.E., compass in hand, 
and myself and Mr. Inskip, acting-master, with small axes to 
mark the trees, the latter carrying also a compass to check Mr. 
Kennish. Lieut. Moore and Mr. Gordon, mate, measured the 
road. We left No. 1 Rancho about 2 p.m. on the 20th, and on 

" Wednesday, 21st, we were able to start early, cutting our way 
through the bush. Halted at a large cuipa-tree, upon which 
wo cut ' Virago/ and commenced measuring with a line, one 
chain in length, which we continued until we returned south 
again. Many monkeys were seen, and some shot ; they made 
a savoury meal for our guides. 

" Not far from Virago tree we discovered the remains of a 
well, and near it several pieces of earthenware jars, etc., said by 
our Indian interpreter to be the work of some Indians. En- 
camped this night at Rancho No. 3, estimating our distance at 
nearly 3| miles from the boats. 

" Thursday, 22nd. — At our first halt a native climbed a tree, 
whence he saw over the dense forest ' a white space like a 
river, but no hills/ 

" The largest watercourse we crossed to-day, with but little 
water in it. All the guides, with Pedro (interpreter), exclaimed it 
was the Lara. Encamped at Rancho No. 4, having travelled 
over 219 chains, 2| miles, at 80 chains to the mile. While the 
rancho was being built, I returned about three-quarters of a 
mile to examine what I supposed to be a river we had passed 
on our left hand, but it proved only a small stream. The cutting 


this day was heavy. As yet we have seen neither snakes, tigers, 
nor any ferocions animals. 

"Friday, 23rd. — Onr work did not commence as early as 
usual; the cutting was through thick underwood and stunted 
shrubs, which made it more difficult to get ahead. The supply 
of water was less plentiful. Soon after noon a tiger (jaguar) 
approached very close to us, but quickly made off. Two tur- 
keys were shot. Tracks of the wild 'hog, and also of a large 
animal called the tapir, were seen near the streams. 

"Encamped for the night at No. 5 Kancho, having pro- 
gressed 208 chains. From a tree level land was seen ahead, 
but no mountains. 

"Saturday, 2tth. — We struck on a considerable river flowing 
S.E., and built our 6th Rancho on its other bank, making this 
day 249 chains. We here missed the fine leaves of the palm, 
which appears never to grow in wet, swampy land, but in its 
place is found another species, with thorns, by no means so use- 
ful. A fine deer passed close to me to-day, and many birds of 
beautiful plumage were seen. Pedro, our Indian interpreter, 
said Indians came up this river, for he saw bamboo-trees, etc., 
cut through, which otherwise would have obstructed the pas- 
sage of a canoe. 

" Sunday, 25th. — The river we were encamped near, though at 
present containing but little water, is evidently a rapid stream 
when the freshes come down. Here we had the first intimation 
of being in the territory of the Indians of the interior, three 
shots during the day being distinctly heard to the north- 
westward, which our natives immediately said were fired by 
Indian hunters. 

"Monday, 26th. — Our road lay through low, swampy, un- 
pleasant ground, as on the other side of the river, for about half 
a mile, then over several streams to undulating ground from 50 
to 60 feet high, on which the wood was more open and breeze 
very pleasant, leaving higher ground sometimes on our left, at 
others on our right. On the slope of a pleasant hill we en- 
camped for the night at No. 7 Rancho, having gone 185 chains. 
On the summit of this hill one of the officers climbed part of 
the way up a tree, and saw a similar hill N.N.E., so that we 


were crossing over a range of hills varying from 50 to GO feet 
high, running in a N.N.E., direction ; this being the highest 
land we have yet been on. 

"Tuesday, 21th. — Some rain fell during the night, but not 
sufficient to annoy us. Pioneers started first, as usual, passing 
over the same kind of undulating hilly ground for 36 chains, 
which brought us to a nice stream running to the eastward. 
Here we fell in with the certain tracks of Indians for the first 
time, pronounced by Pedro to be the bare feet of men, a child 
or children, and a dog, both towards the east and west ; the 
most recent towards the east. The trees were the finest this 
day I have yet seen, and well grown ; the mahogany, fustic, 
caoutchouc, and the tree of which the natives make their canoes, 
most abundant. We met also the wild lime, which quite per- 
fumed the air; also several most brilliant flowers of the fuchsia 
kind. At the foot of the last of the hills, 125 chains from our 
starting-place to-day, we came to the largest river we have yet 
seen, running pretty rapidly to the eastward, two feet deep. It 
had more water in it than at our 6th rancho, though its bed was 
not near so deep. After crossing this, the ground became 
swampy, the road was soft, and the day far advanced, so that 
after crossing three other streams flowing eastward, the palm 
disappearing, and our way becoming more swampy as we pro- 
ceeded, we determined not to attempt to cross it that night. 
After a slight examination we therefore retraced our steps to 
the first high ground, which was across the largest river ; turn- 
ing a short distance off the road, we selected a rising ground 
and, though nearly dark, by the united exertions of all hands, 
we soon had a rancho built, No. 8 ; distant from No. 7, 125 

" Wednesday, 28th. — George Julier and an officer ascended a 
tree this morning. From the summit of the hill, near our 
rancho, the former reported a mountain and a range of hills 
across our path, apparently about six miles off, with a few small 
risings of the ground between them and us. He also saw a 
gap in the range away to the right, bearing about E. The 
latter reports ' hills running in a direction about W. by N. ^ N., 
and E. by S. | 8.' Those to the right of our N.N.E. course 


seemed the highest, and the nearest about six miles distant; 
those ahead about eight miles ; those to the left further off, 
and not so high; saw what he thought was a gap, bearing 
about N.; could not see the gap. Julier spoke of the foliage of 
the tree he was in, shutting out the view in that direction. 

" The pioneers started alone this morning, as it was thought 
most prudent to find a road through the swamp, before bring- 
ing up the provisions, etc. On we went, compass in hand, 
cheerfully retracing our steps of yesterday, in hopes of over- 
coming the difficulty we had met in the soft black swamp about 
three-quarters of a mile distant. Steering the same course, 
N.K.E., we pushed through, sometimes knee-deep in water, 
at others nearly the same in black mud, but in a swamp with 
rather a hard bottom ; this, together with the fact of trees grow- 
ing in it, without brush or underwood, gave us hopes it would 
not continue. 

u Three hundred yards of this disagreeable travelling brought 
us at last to terra firma: the heavy cutting commenced, and 
we advanced on level ground, nearly half a mile, when we 
once again found the palm and other dry-soil shrubs and 
trees ; monkeys also began to chatter, and we, in high spirits, 
hastened on to reach the Cordilleras. The falling sun, how- 
ever, reminded us it was time to rejoin our shipmates, who 
were waiting anxiously at No. 8 Rancho. We arrived about five 
o'clock, having advanced our road about a mile beyond the 
swamp. This day we again fell in with the tracks of the 
Indians, — their marks cut on a tree, but not recent, apparently 
intended to mark a spot we called the Tiger's Den, an open 
space of about \ an acre, thickly covered with a species of wild 
grass. This space we supposed had some time or other been 
cleared for the cultivation of maize or other Indian food. Here, 
too, we saw the clear sky for the first time since leaving the 
boats, — 11 days, — so dense was the forest we had cut our way 

" Thursday, 29th. — Some were employed throwing a bridge 
across the river, improving the road, etc. ; others measuring the 
height of the adjoining hill and tree whence Julier observed the 
surrounding country : while the remainder accompanied me to 


reconnoitre the banks of the river ; following its course in a 
S.E. direction for about a quarter of a mile, we came upon a 
rancho. There were some marks of a canoe having ascended the 
river as high as this hut during the summer season, but only an 
Indian eye could detect them. 

"Mr. Inskip, with a party of our native guides, was this 
afternoon occupied in throwing bridges across the streams, and 
otherwise improving the road already cut before us. 

" Friday } 30th. — The pioneering party left early, to continue 
our road- cutting ; the remainder had directions to join us as 
soon as the petty officer and his party returned with provisions. 
Ketracing our steps, we soon reached the point we had left off 
at on the 28th; from No. 8 to the swamp, 1J mile; distance 
across swamp, J mile; length of road cut beyond, J mile. The 
nature of the forest became quite changed : instead of the 
small underwood, we came on almost impenetrable thickets of 
the prickly palm or aloe, rather more than six feet in height, 
through which we with great difficulty cut our way for § of a 
mile. The total absence of all underwood, together with the 
thickly spreading roots of large trees, and the rich nature of the 
soil, made one fancy that the whole of this belt of land had been 
once under cultivation. At last we came to a small gorge 
between two hills (that on our right about 30 feet high), through 
which ran a small mountain- stream, due N. This gave us all 
great joy, as we at once believed it to be the Caledonia. In its 
bed we found stones, the streams hitherto met being generally 
over a bed of soft clay. On the right-hand hill we encamped 
for the night, making our No. 9 Eancho distant from No. 8, 283 

" Saturday f 31st. — Started this morning as usual, the pio- 
neers ahead, in high spirits, believing we had entered the 
Cordilleras, and. that we should soon be rewarded with a sight 
of the sea, more anxiously looked for by us, than ever was the 
Pacific by Nunez Balboa. 

"Having reached more undulating ground, we lost the 
prickly palm which had so delayed our progress, crossing two 
mountain- streams flowing W.N.W., which evidently joined that 
of yesterday, then ascending a hill, about 30 feet high, from 


whose summit,, being partially clear of trees, we fancied we saw 
the sea. Descending the side of the hill covered with large 
stones, evidently washed by water, we came upon a noble river 
flowing swiftly towards the E.S.E., so suddenly that the fore- 
most woodcutter almost fell into it; another certain proof of 
the density of this forest. This discovery, however, quite 
puzzled me : the size of the river, 1 00 feet broad, apparently too 
deep to ford even at this time of the year ; the rapidity of its 
current, nearly 3 miles an hour ; with its fine banks, plantations 
of bananas and plantains, were all certain signs of its being the 
Chuqunaque, which, by the Spanish charts and other public 
maps, we ought to have left some distance to the eastward, 
steering the course we had done from the Savana. 

" We pushed on towards the westward, along the banks of 
the river, to a more open space, distant 10 chains, where there 
was evidently a ford. Here we determined to build our 10th 
rancho ; but, being early in the day, we followed on another 
quarter of a mile, hoping to meet some huts or a village, but 
without success. We returned to our first halting-place on the 
river, and encamped for the night at No. 10. - 

"Sunday, January 1st, 1854. — By measured distance we had 
advanced nearly 20 miles in a straight line from our point of 
starting on the Savana, near La Villa. If former reports are to 
be relied on, this must place us only a short distance from Port 
Escoces. Still, knowing the difficulties we had to contend 
with, I hesitated to give the order to go forward, until the re- 
turn of a party sent in search of the Indians. To accomplish 
the examination of the country on the other side of the river, 
our pioneers crossed early by the ford, not more than two feet 
deep, cutting our way through a • plantation of bananas and 
plantains, which were growing wild. 

" Crossing several steep but small quebradas and broken 
ground, cut up by small streams emptying themselves into the 
main river, we reached the foot of a hill about 80 feet high, 
covered with fine timber, over which we crossed ; then a steep 
descent to a mountain-torrent or small river, flowing N.W., 
another tributary, and a very considerable one in the rainy 
season. Reaching the summit of another hill, about 120 feet 


high, the view became rather open and clear towards the N.W.; 
turned in that direction, and while resting sent our native guide, 
Maria, up a high tree on the brow of the hill. He reported a 
distant view of the sea to the N.W., with hills on his right, and 
the river we had left in the morning winding its course from 
the westward, as far as he could see. In consequence of this 
report we altered our course to N.W.; descending steeply the 
other side of the hill we had just mounted ; crossed several 
mountain- streams in the same direction, and reached a high 
point whence, from the highest tree, we discovered a river at its 
foot, with a rapid descent leading to it, and found it about 90 
feet broad, flowing from N.N.E. to S.S.W., along a valley 105 
chains distant from No. 10 Rancho. 

"The day being far advanced, we thought it prudent to 
retrace our steps, and reached No. 10 a little before sunset. 
Messrs. Inskip and Gordon had returned without having fallen 
in with Indians, having followed the course of the river 3 \ 
miles, which they found to continue its north-westerly direction, 
varying but little in size, depth, and strength of current. Its 
banks were steep and precipitous, and at least 300 feet high. 

{e From the nature of the country we had passed over this day 
it was agreed that each officer and man should carry his own 
four days' provisions, and that the remaining provisions, with 
all unnecessary clothing, stores, etc., should be left at No. 10 
Raucho, as a depot for the advancing party to fall back upon, in 
charge of an armed party. 

" Having made all necessary arrangements, and given my 
final instructions to the party to be left in charge of No. 10, we 
only waited for daylight to cross the river, hoping to see the 
Atlantic, and return in safety. 

(< Monday, 2nd. — We left early, fifteen in number, including 
four native guides. We soon reached the beautiful river of 
yesterday, and followed its course for 80 chains, sometimes in 
its bed, about knee- deep in water, at others cutting our road 
along its banks, clothed with fine overhanging trees, until it 
became tortuous, winding away in a more westerly direction, 
when we ascended its eastern bank, and cut our road over 
several small hills with quebradas between them, through which 


ran a stream towards the main river. Striking this river again, 
we crossed it, flowing then more easterly. Here we came upon 
a rancho, being built on the W. bank. Some of the party de- 
clared they heard the axe at work, which ceased immediately 
we approached ; 100 yards further along/ on the opposite bank, 
was another Indian hut, but apparently deserted ; near it a tree 
almost chopped through, the marks very fresh. We observed 
also a curious hole, which appeared to us like a grave ; but our 
native guides said it was made by the conejo, or wild rabbit. 

" Continuing our N.N.E. course, we crossed over a high hill, 
and on our descent struck another river flowing to the N.W. 
Ascending then along a ridge for 25 chains, we encamped for 
the night at No. 11 Rancho. 

" Tuesday, 3rd. — The early part of this day we had climbing 
enough, crossing several deep ravines, whose steep and slippery 
sides caused many a tumble. We, however, cut our way 
through in a N.N.E. direction, and about noon reached the 
summit of a hill, estimated by us at 800 feet high. Even from 
here we could see nothing of the surrounding country, so dense 
was the forest, until George Julier mounted a high tree, when, 
on his right, or to the eastward, he saw a three-peaked moun- 
tain, very distant, and hills in our course not so distant. Not 
long after this, having descended considerably, we came to a 
river, flowing N. by W., which cheered us on, concluding it 
must eventually fall into the Atlantic. We crossed this, having 
travelled 144 chains from No. 11, and ascending gradually over 
high undulating ground, we came at last to a spot, whence 
there was so abrupt a descent, 45 chains from the last river, that 
we could almost see the surrounding country. 

"As sunset was fast approaching, and we were still some 
distance from water, we had to turn our attention to the selec- 
tion of a spot for encamping. The descent into the valley 
beneath was too perpendicular to attempt, so we followed the 
ridge downwards, 25 chains, which brought us to another river 
in a most picturesque situation, flowing S.W. Here we built 
our 12th and last rancho. Total distance measured 26 miles 
and 14 chains from Rancho No. 1. 

" Wednesday, 4//i. — Although finding ourselves in the centre 



of the Cordilleras, and, I believe, within a very few miles of the 
object of our search, yet having already exceeded the limit of 
my stay, it became my duty to rejoin the ship without delay — 
still feeling confident that, had time and our provisions allowed 
us, we should have eventually reached the Atlantic shores, and 
that easily, by following one of the several rivers or streams 
which appear to exist in this range of hills, forming certain 
passages to the sea. 

" We now retraced our steps to the river we had crossed 
yesterday flowing N. \ W., and leaving one-half of the party 
there with directions to build a rancho for the night if we did 
not return before 2 p.m., we pushed on, following its course to 
ascertain, as best we could, in what direction it ran ; and when 
we came upon it again, a magnificent sight was before us. Pre- 
cipitous rocks, causing a fall of at least 150 feet in something less 
than a quarter of a mile, in which even at this season was a beau- 
tiful waterfall and several deep pools, finding their way through, 
not over, the masses of rock around them ; the richly-clothed 
hills, verdant with the finest forest trees; and, above all, the 
perfect solitude, perhaps never before broken by civilized man, 
made us feel ourselves already repaid for our labours. Our 
guide thought it too precipitous to follow ; so we ascended one 
of its overhanging hills, and from its summit commanded a 
view tolerably clear towards the S.W., over an apparently level 
country, but too distant to distinguish its true nature. 

" The passage which the river might take towards the N.E. 
was very indistinct. Descending from this point at a very 
sharp angle, we came again upon the river, flowing south- 
westerly, which we followed until it took a turn W.S.W., 
between hills rising very high on both its banks, when, finding 
it very difficult to proceed, we returned to the remainder of the 
party, feeling sure it did not run through the passage we had 
supposed it did the previous night. Many fine fish were seen 
in it, which Macao told us were only found near the sea-coast. 
Having plenty of daylight, we passed on to No. 11, which we 
found undisturbed, and the fire still burning. 

" Thursday, bth. — Started off at early dawn, hoping to reach 
our depot, No. 10 Rancho, in good time, to rest and enjoy a 


fresh and cooked meal, half allowance of pork with biscuit 
having been our mountain fare. Returned to Rancho No. 10 
by our old road without meeting anything worthy of notice, ex- 
cept that in wading through the river as before, we missed our 
mark for crossing over the hills ; and following the stream 
lower down, it gave evident signs of soon emptying itself into 
the main river. 

" We reached the river Chuqunaque, and crossed it by the 
same ford, when, arriving at the rancho, to my utter astonish- 
ment and dismay I found all the party gone, as well as all our 
provisions and stores ; and there was every appearance of the 
hut having been ransacked. Our native guides searched in vain 
for traces of an Indian attack, or even of their footsteps. Ran- 
cho No. 9 was soon passed ; and in Indian file we came to the 
swamp, and there plainly distinguished the marks of Indian feet. 
Still we were undisturbed, and had reached within a quarter of 
a mile of No. 8 Rancho, when, in taking a short turn in the 
road, to my horror I came suddenly upon the bodies of three of 
our shipmates, Thomas Hyde and James Perkins, R.M.A., and 
Henry Windsor, A.B., lying dead in the pathway. 

" At No. 8 Rancho we found the few stores and provisions 
left there untouched ; the Indians had not advanced so far ; 
still we were liable every moment to the same unseen attack, 
had such been their object. Our only resource appeared to me 
to push on to the boats by forced marches, taking every pre- 
caution as we went along to prevent a surprise. My fears for 
the safety of those left at Rancho No. 1 were not allayed until 
we reached No. 6, where we found a day's provisions, letters 
from the ship, and a note saying a strong party had left that 
rancho only a few hours previous to our arrival. The moon 
lighted us to No. 5, where we arrived about eight o'clock. 

" Friday, 6th. — As soon as we could distinguish the bushes 
we were on the march towards the boats, which we reached 
about eleven o'clock, and found all well. 

" Saturday, 7th. — About two a.m. we reached the ship, much 
refreshed in body, but sad in heart and spirits. So toilsome was 
our journey that we spent fifteen days in performing a distance 
little more than twenty- six miles, having to force our slow and 

N 2 


laborious path through forests that seemed to stretch from the 
Pacific to the Atlantic shores. The trees, of stupendous size, 
were matted with creepers and parasitical vines, which hung in 
festoons from tree to tree, forming an almost impenetrable net- 
work, and obliging us to hew open a passage with our axes 
every step we advanced." 

Although Captain Prevost and his party did not 
accomplish their object in reaching the Atlantic, yet 
for a first attempt it was eminently valuable. Success is 
rarely, if ever, grasped at once ; the fickle goddess re- 
quires to be wooed ; and, especially in undertakings 
like that of Captain Prevost's, patience is as requisite a 
quality as indomitable perseverance ; it could hardly be 
expected that a body of sailors, totally unused to bush- 
work, should have penetrated even so far as they did. 
I think, therefore, every one will admit that although 
success did' not crown the efforts of this gallant party, 
yet such a consummation of their hopes was richly de- 
served. The loss of life cannot be attributed in the 
least degree to any indiscretion ; it was simply the re- 
sult of a mistaken notion on the part of the Indians that 
the men were Spaniards, against whom and their de- 
scendants, in common with all the independent abori- 
ginal tribes, the most undying hatred is manifested. 

Their course was no doubt too far to the north, and 
they were unable to rectify this error from their ina- 
bility to determine the exact position day by day, owing 
to not having observed for latitude and longitude ; for 
let people say what they like, the compass in some loca- 
lities, such for instance as that the party was traversing, 
is as likely as not to deviate, and that too in a manner 


to defy corrections. Eegarding the distance traversed, 
there is no question about that, for it was accurately 
measured mile for mile; indeed the whole journey 
affords a most valuable precedent for future guidance 
in undertakings of a like nature : when the experience 
gained will prove of great assistance. 

Captain Prevost's party consisted of himself, four 
officers, two volunteers and servant, eight seamen, and 
seven Indians, assisted by a midshipman and a boat's 
crew of twelve men, — total altogether, thirty-six. The 
above expedition stands alone as the only real effort 
sanctioned by the English Government for the purpose 
of finding a transit route from sea to sea. 

It is curious to reflect how studiously we naval men 
are taught " how not to do it;" for example, during the 
surveying service of the ' Herald'* throughout the Bay of 
Panama and in its vicinity, many opportunities occurred 
of exploring the land intervening between us and the 
Atlantic, and I can personally testify that there would 
have been no lack of volunteers. I remember once, 
w T hen the Alcalde of Cupica told us that the canal of Eas- 
padura, mentioned by Humboldt as completing the water 
communication from sea to sea, was still navigable, and 
that he could point out favourable localities over which 
he thought a great canal could be constructed, how 
anxious we were to make an exploration of the country ; 
but our captain was far too careful an officer to risk 
going beyond his instructions, and therefore all our 
energies were directed to the survey of the coast-line, 

* See, for further information, Dr. Seemann's ' Voyage of the Herald,' 
vol. i. pp. 221-8. 


much, it appears, to the chagrin of Mr. Lionel Gisborne, 
who says in his book, ' Daricn in 1852,' how glad he 
would have been of some information regarding the 
magnificent Gulf of San Miguel, but that the tracings 
of Captain Kellett's surveys lent by the Admiralty did 
not conduct him beyond the entrance. 

I have been thus particular in noticing all the fea- 
tures and inserting all the remarks on this part of the 
Central American Isthmus, Darien, because it is the 
only locality towards which English efforts (!) have been 
officially directed. It is painful to think how other 
nations must have laughed at the noisy squabbles and 
indecision which have characterized our transit attempt. 
The only silver lining to the cloud is the journey of 
Commander Prevost, which plainly shows what might 
have been done by an organized system of research. 




The remaining projects take one starting-point, namely, 
the river Atrato, which is ascended for some distance 
and then quitted for one of its affluents, the Naipipi or 
Truando for example, whence it is proposed to cut a 
canal to Cupica Bay or Kelley's Inlet, near the Bay 
of Panama. Other projectors prefer continuing along 
the Atrato until its shallows are reached, and thence 
cutting a canal to the deep waters of the San Juan, 
which empties itself into the Pacific at Point Chiram- 
bira. This last was Humboldt's favourite project, and 
this is the point where the passage from sea to sea has 
actually been made, as described by him in his 'Travels.' 
It appears that the padre of the district in 1788 induced 
his Indian converts to cut a trench between the head 
waters of the San Juan and the upper stream of the 
Atrato through the ravine De la Raspadura, and that 
he actually passed from ocean to ocean in a canoe dur- 
ing the rainy season. The cut is about three miles in 
length and has been neglected of late years ; but I was 


informed by the Alcalde of the place, when I was survey- 
ing about Cupica in 1847, that he had himself paddled 
through the cut. The total distance from sea to sea, 
from the mouth of the San Juan to the mouth of the 
Atrato, is about 225 miles. 

As regards the shorter route, in 1845 an attempt was 
made in London to form a company to promote this 
undertaking, and in the prospectus they then issued the 
localities are thus described : — " The entrance, on the 
Atlantic side, will be from the Gulf of Darien, by the 
great river Atrato. This river runs inland, almost due 
south, for 52 miles, to its confluence with the river Nat 
pipi, which branches off to the westward for 35 miles. 
Here it is proposed to cut a canal, the length of which 
will only require to be about 5 miles, to the river Cu- 
pica or Tupica, which runs westwardly for 13 miles, to 
the port of Cupica on the Pacific side ; the total dis- 
tance will be 105 miles, of which 100 miles will be 
river navigation." 

" It is well known that the rivers Atrato and Cupica 
are navigable for vessels of considerable burden, almost 
their entire distance ; as also the river Naipipi. With 
the aid of powerful steam-dredging machines, there- 
fore, they will be rendered navigable for vessels of the 
largest dimensions/' 

The promoters of this company failed to obtain the 
concessions they solicited from the New Granadian Go- 
vernment, and therefore the effort fell to the ground. 

At a later date (1854-5) an American gentleman, 
named Kelley, entered warmly into this matter, and 
spent large sums of money in regular surveys and ex- 

MR. kelley's project. 185 

plorations. As Mr. Kelley's efforts at canalization have 
been most systematically carried out, and his surveys 
and estimates contain some sound information, a few 
extracts are inserted in this place. 

" The line will proceed direct south from the Bay of 
Candelaria, up the Atrato to its junction with the Trn- 
ando, lat. 7° 15' N., and long. 77° 8' 32" W. — a distance 
of 67 miles 1436 yards, — whence it will diverge by the 
Truando to the south-west, and terminate at Kelley's 
Inlet, lat. 6° 57' 32" N., and long. 78° W. — a distance 
of 63 miles 1216 yards. It will thus have a total length 
of 131 miles 892 yards from sand-bar to sand-bar, with 
a minimum width and depth throughout, of 200 feet 
and 30 feet respectively. 

" The difference in the height of the tides at the two 
extremities of the proposed route, has been ascertained 
to be, at the entrance of Kelley's Inlet in the Pacific, 
12 feet 6 inches at spring-tides and 10 feet 11 inches at 
neap-tides ; while the tidal rise at the mouth of the 
Atrato never exceeds 2 feet at any phase of the moon." 

Colonel Lloyd estimated the mean level of the Pa- 
cific at 3 '52 feet above that of the Atlantic ; and more 
cently, M. Garella fixed it at 9*54 feet. Now, from a 
series of careful observations made in 1855 by Colonel 
Totten, the engineer of the Panama Eailway, in Navy 
Bay, on the Atlantic side, and the Bay of Panama, on 
the Pacific, it results that the difference, if any, is ex- 
ceedingly trifling. Colonel Totten says in his Eeport, 
" Although my observations make the mean level of the 
Pacific from 0*14 to 0*75 feet higher than the mean 
level of the Atlantic, this is probably owing to local cir- 


cumstances alone. We may therefore state that there is 
no difference between the mean levels of the two oceans." 
The winds are periodical, blowing from the south from 
March to September, and from the north from September 
to March. During the whole year it is calm from six p.m. 
to ten a.m., when a light wind breeze begins, which in- 
creases to a breeze at noon, and gradually dies away. 

A Summary of the Estimated Cost of the Canal and Appurtenances. 

Works at the mouth of the Atrato 4T50,800 

Excavations under water in the Truando 1,360,000 

Excavations at the confluence of the Truando and Canal, in- 
cluding coffer-dams and pumping 40,000 

Excavations between confluence, as above, and Pacific (ex- 
cepting tunnel). The quantities are all called rock; the 
excess by these measures being allowed, for grubbing and 

clearing, at %\ per cubic yard 77,883,994 

Tunnel at #2, being £10 for heading, etc 25,403,840 

Harbour and Kelley's Inlet 150,000 

Lighthouses 35,000 

Piers 20,000 

Depots (Pacific) 50,000 

Depots and hospitals on line 35,000 

Depot and hospital, Townsend's Junction 15,000 

Depot at Turbo, and improvements necessary 70,000 

Executive department, twelve years 180,000 

Engineering department 562,000 

Medical department 120,000 

Pay department 140,000 

Commissary department 260,000 

Quartermaster's department 150,000 

Supplies for ditto 550,000 

Twenty-five pumping and hoisting engines, for the work in 

the great cut 1,250,000 

Contingencies, 25 per cent 27,081,408 

If the rock is estimated at 451, this would be, with contingent 

allowance, about extra 10,000,000 

Say, £30,000,00 -8145,407,042 


The following letter from the great Humboldt to 
Mr. Kelley on this his favourite point for the junction 
of the two oceans, cannot fail to be read with interest. 


" It is with the deepest satisfaction, Sir, that I made 
myself acquainted, during your too short stay in Berlin, 
with the sound and extensive series of measurements 
and levels which, by your direction, have been executed, 
since the beginning of January, 1855, upon the course 
of the great Kio Atrato and its affluents on the west, by 
an able engineer, Mr. William Kennish. This survey 
and those previously undertaken by your orders, and to 
which my learned friend Mr. Alexander Bache, Super- 
intendent of the Coast Survey of the United States, had 
already drawn my attention, are so much the more de- 
serving of regard, since you purpose to have examined 
with the same precision the pass from the port of Cupica 
to the Eio Naipi (Naipipi), and the points situated above 
the mouth of the Truando, which are all very important 
in the solution of the vast problem of an oceanic canal. 

" The great number of charts and sections on a large 
scale in your possession, furnish all the elements ne- 
cessary for judging of the possibility of establishing a 
communication between the two oceans, by the mouths 
of the Atrato, the Hio Truando, and a canal leading to 
the Pacific Ocean. It was on account of his not having 


made so thorough an examination of the mountainous 
country between the Gulf of San Miguel and Caledonia 
Bay, that Mr. Lionel Gisborne's plan of 1852 could not 
be carried out. The ignorance he was in as to the 


localities, and the absence of measurements of altitude, 
led to the unfortunate issue of the courageous expedi- 
tion of Lieutenant Isaac Strain. 

"The great object to be attained is, in my opinion, 
a canal which would unite the two oceans, without 
locks and without tunnels. When the plans and sec- 
tions can be placed before the public, a free and open 
discussion will elucidate the advantages and disadvan- 
tages of each locality ; and the execution of this impor- 
tant work, which interests the civilized nations of the 
two continents, will be entrusted to engineers who have 
successfully distinguished themselves in similar enter- 
prises. The Junction Company will find subscribers 
among those governments and citizens who, yielding to a 
noble impulse, will take pride in the idea of having con- 
tributed towards the execution of a work worthy of the 
intellectual progress of the nineteenth century. More 
than fifty years ago I earnestly expressed the same 
opinion, and I have incessantly laboured in the propa- 
gation of those geographical views which tend to prove 
the. practicability of establishing commercial communi- 
cations, either by canals, (with or without either stop- 
gates or locks), or by means of railroads uniting op- 
posite coasts, and rivers flowing in contrary directions. 

"I was the means of obtaining, through General 
Bolivar, the exact geodesic survey of the Isthmus of 
Panama, and I was the first, from information found 
in the archives of the Viceroyalty of Mexico, to lay 
down in my Mexican atlas the course of the two rivers, 
the Huasacualco and the Chimalapa. I pointed out 
the proximity of the almost unknown port of Cupica 


to the sources of the Eio Naipi and to the waters of the 
Atrato, and also the existence, with which Europe was 
unacquainted, of a very small navigable canal, ' exca- 
vated' in 1788, under the superintendence of a monk, 
the priest of Novita, by the Indians of his parish, in 
order to unite the waters of the Rio de la Raspadura, 
an affluent of the Eio de Quito (Quibdo), to the waters 
of the Rio de San Juan de Chirambira. 

" I think nothing more dangerous to the extension of 
commerce and to the freedom of international relations, 
than to inspire an aversion to all future investigation 
by an absolute and imperious declaration, that all hope 
of an oceanic canal must now be abandoned. I ex- 
pressly described, in my ' Political Essay on New Spain,' 
(compare vol. i. pp. 202-248, with vol. ii. pp. 95-145, 
2nd edition,) the immense work of cutting through the 
mountains an open channel for the Desague of Huehue- 
toca, which was executed by the Spanish Government 
at the beginning of the seventeenth century, and I have 
too much faith in the powerful means afforded by the 
present state of civilization, to be yet discouraged. 

" The important communications for which I am in- 
debted to the courtesy of Colonel Augustus Codazzi, and 
to the exceeding kindness of M. Pastor Ospina, Minister 
of the Interior at Bogota, have made me fully aware, 
that the line from Cupica to the Rio Naipi" presents a 
series of elevations; in directing this passage to be 
levelled, you will therefore be rendering a further ser- 
vice to geography. Captain Robert Eitzroy, R.N., whose 
name is justly renowned among navigators, in his 'Memoir 
on the Isthmus of Central America' savs: ' Of all the 


comparatively well-known routes, it has been shown, 
that the Atrato and the Cupica line seems the most 
suitable for a canal, and the Panama route for a rail- 
way. The officer who recently surveyed Cupica (Lieut. 
Wood, E.N.) states, with respect to the land between 
it and the Naipi, that he set out one morning from 
Cupica at eight o'clock, walked with native guides to 
the Naipi, bathed in the stream, and reached his ship (the 
' Pandora') at noon.'* The most elevated ground was, in 
his judgment, 300 to 400 feet. (Journal of the Royal 
Geogr. Soc, vol. xx., 1850, part ii. p. 178.) 

" Eeceive, my dear Sir, etc., 
(Signed) "Alexander von Humboldt. 

" Berlin, January 27, 1856." 

Finally, it appears that at this moment certain French 
gentlemen have taken up afresh the idea of a canal 
from Caledonia Bay to the Gulf of San Miguel. Two 
expeditions have already been sent out, headed by the 
engineers Messrs. Bourdiol and De Champeville, and 
the geologist M. De Puydl. The second expedition 
was accompanied by the Abbe Amodru, who, it appears, 

* The following quotation from Dr. Seemann's official Narrative of the 
Voyage of H. M.S. Herald, as I well remember, clearly expresses the feel- 
ing on board that ship at the time : — 

" Captain Kellett and Lieutenant-Commander Wood . . . after walking 
several hours, came to a river, which they supposed or were told flowed 
into the Atlantic ; if such was really the case, it might afford facilities for 
constructing a canal. . . . Captain Kellett never spoke on the subject, 
probably because he was not certain whether the river reached actually 
flowed into the Atrato ; and that portion of his journal relating to Darien 
is unfortunately wanting. . . . The land around the Bay of Cupica is 
hilly ; but how far in the interior the country has the same character 
we had no means of ascertaining." — Vol. i. p. 221. 


was well received by the Indians, a number of whom 
brought to him their children for baptism. The ac- 
counts of a practicable passage were so encouraging 
that a third expedition is in course of preparation, 
which, like the others, is to enjoy the protection of a 
French man-of-war.* 

Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society, vol. vi. no. Ill 
Pirn's ' Central American Transit Route,' p. 77. 






If all the schemes of canalization have failed, this has 
not been the case with railway projects. The Isthmus 
of Panama has been successfully spanned by the iron 
road, and the locomotive now makes its daily journey 
from sea to sea, through the primaeval forest. 

I have seen some of the greatest engineering works 
of the day, — for example, the railroad over the Scemer- 
ing, and the Dom Pedro Secundo line at Eio Janeiro, — 
but I must confess that when passing backwards and for- 
wards on the Panama Eailway, standing on the engine 
to obtain a good view, I have never been more struck 
than with the evidence, apparent on every side, of the 
wonderful skill, endurance, and perseverance, which 
must have been exercised in its construction. 

In 1848, three American merchants, Messrs. Stephens, 
Aspinwall, and Chauncey, turned their attention to the 
Isthmus of Panama, with a view to constructing a rail- 
way across it. The former of these gentlemen, well 


known in the scientific world for his writings on Central 
America, devoted himself to a preliminary exploration, 
and proved the feasibility of the project. Having satis- 
fied himself of this fact, he returned to his partners, 
and they conjointly entered into a formal contract with 
the Government of New Granada, for the exclusive 
privilege of constructing a railway across the Isthmus. 
The following extracts give the main features of this 
contract : — 

Extracts from a Contract for the Privilege of constructing an 
Iron Railroad from one Ocean to the other, by the Isthmus of 

" Article 1 . — The Government of New Granada concedes to 
the Company styled the ' Panama Railroad Company/ their 
representatives or assigns, the exclusive privilege of establishing 
an Iron Railroad between the two oceans, across the Isthmus 
of Panama. 

" Art. 2. — The privilege conceded to the Company by the 
preceding Article, to establish an Iron Railroad, shall continue 
forty -nine years, counting from the day of the completion of the 
road and its being opened to public use. Nevertheless, said pri- 
vilege shall terminate before the expiration of the said forty- 
nine years, if before their expiration the Government shall have 
redeemed the privilege by virtue of the right and power re- 
served in the following terms : — 

" At the expiration of twenty years, counting from the day 
in which the Railroad shall have been completed and opened to 
public use, the Government may redeem the privilege for the 
benefit of New Granada, by the sum of five millions of dollars, 
to be paid as the whole amount of the indemnification. If the 
privilege should not be redeemed at that date, it shall continue 
in force ten years still longer, at the end of which the Govern- 
ment may redeem it, by paying two millions of dollars. 

" In order that the Government may avail itself of the right 
thus reserved to it of redeeming the privilege, it shall notify the 


Company of its intention to redeem it at least one year before 
the day of the expiration of either of the three periods above 

"Art. 3. — The sum to be paid to the Company for the re- 
demption of the privilege in either of the three cases mentioned 
in the preceding Article, is to be in specie, in American dollars, 
without any reduction, it being well understood, that in all 
other cases in which mention is made of dollars in this con- 
tract, it is of American dollars, without any deduction. 

" Art. 4. — The Company shall, after the redemption of the 
privilege, remain in possession of the lands conceded to it gratui- 
tously and perpetually by the eighteenth Article of this Contract. 

"Art. 5. — The Railroad from ocean to ocean shall be com- 
pleted within six years, counting from the expiration of four 
months after the present act of concession shall have been ap- 
proved by the Congress of the Republic ; and the fact of its 
completion shall be verified before the Governor of Panama, on 
the request of the Company, by a statement drawn up on both 
sides, after discussion between it and the agent or agents of 
the Executive Power, commissioned to that effect. 

" Art. 6. — During the time of the continuance of the ex- 
clusive privilege conceded to the Company, or persons engaged 
in the enterprise, for the establishment of the Iron Railroad 
from one ocean to the other, the Government of the Republic 
engages neither itself to make nor to grant to any other Com- 
pany whatever, under any title whatever, the power to establish 
another Iron Railroad on the Isthmus of Panama ; and it is 
equally stipulated, that during the period of the existence of 
the said privilege, the New-Granadian Government shall have 
no power to undertake, itself, nor to permit any other person 
to undertake, without the accord and consent of said Company, 
the opening of any maritime canal which may communicate 
with the two oceans, across the said Isthmus of Panama. 

"Art. 9. — The exclusive privilege is also granted to the 
Company for forty -nine years : — 

" 1st. To use the ports situated at the two extremities of the 
Railroad, required for the anchorage of vessels, and for the land- 
ing and shipping of goods which are to pass over the said road. 


" 2nd. To use the ports situated at the two extremities, and 
for the free deposit of all effects and merchandise admitted for 
transit across the Isthmus by means of the Railroad established 
by the Company. In virtue of said privilege, the Company may 
levy such duties of transit, warehouse, and toll, as it may judge 
proper to establish, in compensation for the use of the lines of 
communication, the means of transportation, the ports, passages, 
warehouses, and establishments of all kinds belonging to it. 

"Art. 15. — In consideration of the difficulties of the enter- 
prise, and of the direct and indirect advantages which the 
Eepublic is to derive from it, various concessions of land are 
made to the Company, on the continental part of the Isthmus, 
comprised within the limits which the provinces of Panama and 
Yeraguas had, on the first day of January, 1819. The Govern- 
ment of the Republic concedes therefore, gratuitously, to the 
Company, in the terms expressed in this Article : — 

" 1st. The lands which may be necessary for the establish- 
ment of the line of Railroad in its whole extent. 

" 2nd. All the lands which it may require for the establish- 
ment of ports and places for landing and embarking, dry docks, 
places for lighterage, warehouses, stations, inns, and, in general, 
for all the necessary purposes of the construction and service of 
the Railroad. 

iC Art. 16. — Although according to what is expressed in the 
preceding Article, the Company has no right to vacant lands 
on the islands adjacent to the Isthmus of Panama, the Govern- 
ment nevertheless binds itself to concede to the Company all 
the vacant land which may be on the island of Manzanillo, in 
the Bay of Limon, provided the Company consider it proper to 
extend the work of the Railroad to said island, so that one of 
the extremities terminate on it. 

" Art. 18. — Concession is moreover made to the Company 
gratuitously, and in perpetuity, of one hundred thousand fane- 
gadas of vacant land in the provinces of Panama and Yeraguas, 
within the limits indicated in the first part of the fifteenth 
Article, which may be increased to one hundred and fifty thou- 
sand, if such extent be found disposable in the two provinces 
above mentioned, so that the Government can pronounce them 

O 2 


vacant ; and the Company shall have liberty to select them, in 
the continental portion of those provinces, wheresoever it may 
judge most proper, it being stipulated, however, that where- 
soever they may be selected on the line of the road, or in its 
vicinity, intervals shall be exactly left, in which the Govern- 
ment of the Republic may make concessions or sales of land 
for other establishments, such as it may choose to form on said 
line and its vicinity. The hundred thousand fanegadas of land, 
or any other extent less than a hundred and fifty thousand fane- 
gadas, which may be found disposable as vacant, and thus 
granted to the Company, may be used for encampment for 
workmen, fields for cultivation, pastures for beasts of burden 
and cattle, or for cutting wood from them for the construction 
of the road, or for fuel ; and in general, for establishments of 
any kind facilitating industrial operations undertaken by the 
Company, especially those tending to colonization. 

te Art. 19. — The vacant lands which are granted to the Com- 
pany by the eighteenth Article of the present Contract are 
given to it in full ownership ; and the Company may dispose 
of them freely during the period of the privilege, and after the 
termination of said period, or of the redemption of the said 

"Art. 30. — The Executive Power shall at all times determine 
what foreign nations may be permitted to transport their cor- 
respondence across the Isthmus of Panama by the Railroad ; 
but in all cases in which the mails of foreign nations are per- 
mitted to pass by the Isthmus of Panama, all the contracts or 
pecuniary arrangements for their transportation by the said 
Railroad shall be made by the Company, and all the pecuniary 
proceeds of such contracts and arrangements shall go into the 
funds of the Company as a branch of its profits. In compen- 
sation for this privilege, the Company obliges itself to trans- 
port by the Railroad, free of charge, all the mails of New Gra- 
nada, and moreover, to pay to the Government of the Republic 
five per cent, on all the sums of money which it may receive in 
virtue of said contracts and arrangements, whether such sums 
proceed from contracts which the Company may enter into 
with foreign governments, or from the general regulations 

the company's I o u. 197 

which, it may establish for the carrying of the correspondence 
of nations which may not have entered into special contracts 
with it. 

"And it is also stipulated : — 1. That whatever may be the 
profit which the Company may receive by virtue of such con- 
tracts and arrangements, in no case shall it on this account pay 
to the Government of New Granada less than $10,000 per 
annum. 2. That this payment shall be over and above the 
three per cent, of the net profit of the enterprise to which 
New Granada is entitled; and 3. That the power of the Com- 
pany to enter into such contracts or pecuniary regulations shall 
not be opposed in any manner to the contracts or arrangements 
which now exist between the Eepublic of New Granada and 
any foreign nation or nations for the transportation of mails on 
the Isthmus of Panama. 

"Art. 35. — Foreigners who may form establishments on the 
vacant lands conceded gratuitously to the Company shall be 
exempt from all forced contributions, and from tithes, on the 
interior consumption of their productions, during the space of 
twenty years from the date of the formation of such establish- 
ments. They shall be entitled to letters of naturalization, so 
soon as they solicit them, provided they fix their residence in 
the territory of the Republic ; they shall be exempted from 
military service during the twenty years after the formation of 
their establishments ; and they shall not be required to serve in 
the army, except in case of invasion of the country by a foreign 

"Art. 51. — In the collection of the duties and costs of trans- 
portation fixed by itself, the Company engages to effect always 
with care, punctuality, and celerity, and without exception as 
to national character, the transportation of travellers, cattle, 
goods, merchandise, and materials of all kinds which may be 
confided to it, all of which shall be transported without any 
diminution of tariff prices, except such as it may allow in favour 
of nations which are now bound or which may hereafter become 
bound, by means of public treaties entered into with New Gra- 
nada, to guarantee positively and efficaciously to this Republic 
its rights of sovereignty and ownership over the territory of the 


Isthmus of Panama and the perfect neutrality of said Isthmus, 
to the end that the free transit from one sea to the other may 
never be interrupted or embarrassed ; but notice is expressly 
given, and in effect it is here especially stipulated, that New 
Granada, Granadians, and their property, shall enjoy all the 
benefits and advantages which any other nation whatever may 
obtain by virtue of the provision in this Article. 

" Art. 55. — The Company engages to pay to the Kepublic of 
New Granada three per cent, annually of the net profits of the 
enterprise, in the same proportion in which they are distributed 
in form of dividends to the shareholders, without however 
bringing into the account, in payment of the said three per 
cent., any deduction for the general advantage of the capital of 
the association, or for any sum which the shareholders may 
desire for a reserve or sinking-fund. It is stipulated that, for 
the recovery of this duty, the Government of New Granada 
shall, as well as the shareholders of the enterprise, look to the 
accounts produced and liquidated in the general assembly of 
the Company, which accounts the agent of the Republic is to 
examine, and he may make observations with regard to them 
in the same manner as any shareholder ; but he is to have no 
power of interfering in the administration of the Company. 
Besides what is stipulated in the present Article, it is also 
agreed that the payment of the said duty of three per cent, 
shall be made at Bogota, Panama, or New York, according to 
the order of the Government of the Republic. 

u Art. 57. — The present privilege cannot be ceded or trans- 
ferred to any foreign government, that is, to any government 
existing out of the New-Granadian territory, under pain of 
forfeiture of the privilege by the mere act of attempting or 
carrying into effect such cession or transfer ; and although it 
may be attempted or carried into effect, it will be and from 
this time is declared absolutely null, and of no force or effect. 

u Art. 61 . — All the legislative acts, decrees, and agreements, 
by which, in former years, various privileges have been con- 
ceded for the opening of the intermarine communication by the 
Isthmus of Panama, are irrevocably annulled. Consequently, 
only the Panama Railroad Company has the right and the obli- 


gation to construct a railroad from one ocean to the other, by 
the said Isthmus, in conformity with the stipulations of the 
present Contract, which is the only one which remains in force 
on the subject, between the Government of the Republic and 
said Company ; since, by this clause, not only all the acts, de- 
crees, and agreements above mentioned, but especially all the 
contracts and stipulations which formerly existed between the 
said Government and the said Company, or the individuals in 
whose rights it has been substituted, are annulled. 

" Art. 62. — The present Contract, divided into two chapters, 
and extending to sixty-two articles, shall be submitted to the 
approbation of the Executive Power of the Republic, and that 
being obtained, shall be presented by him to Congress ; the 
consent and approbation of which are required, in order that, 
receiving the force of a law, it may be carried into effect. In 
faith of which, the Commissioners on either side, that is to say, 
Yictoriano de Diego Paredes, in the name and under the 
especial authority of the Government of the Republic, and John 
Lloyd Stevens, as Yice-President and General Commissioner 
of the Panama Railroad Company, in the name and by the 
especial authority of the said Company, have prepared two 
copies of the present Contract, both of the same tenor and form ; 
and in evidence thereof, they sign and seal them with their re- 
spective seals, in Bogota, the fifteenth day of the month of April, 
in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and fifty." 

Pending the ratification of this contract a company 
was formed at New York. A large and experienced 
party of engineers had been sent down, early in 1849, 
to make a complete survey, and soon after triumphantly 
announced the entire practicability of the project. The 
Pacific terminus was selected a little to the eastward of 
the city of Panama, quite clear of the suburbs, and the 
Atlantic at Navy Bay, sometimes called Colon, but now 
named Aspinwall, after one of the chief promoters of 
the Company. 


The work commenced in January, 1850, and was 
finished on the 28th of January, 1855, having occupied 
five years in completing. The nature of the country 
through which the line of road had to be carried, was 
calculated to strike the hardiest speculator with dismay. 
The first thirteen miles from the Atlantic led through 
deep swamps covered with jungle, full of reptiles and 
venomous insects.* Further on, the line ran through a 
rugged country, over rapid rivers, and all sorts of impe- 
diments, and after passing the summit descended rapidly 
to the Pacific. The climate also was sultry, beyond al- 
most any other part of the world, while, during the wet 
season, the rains descended in a perfect deluge ; more- 
over, to crown all, the resources of the country were 
found to be nil, or nearly so, and consequently every- 
thing, especially labour, had to be imported. Despite 
all these obstacles, the undertaking was commenced, 
and, under the able superintendence of Colonel G. M. 
Totten, one of the boldest and grandest enterprises of 
modern times successfully completed. 

The total length of the road is 47 miles 3020 feet ; 
it runs on the right or easterly bank of the Chagres, 
as far as Barbacoas, where it crosses the river by a bridge 
625 feet in length, 18 feet in breadth, and 40 feet above 
the mean level of the river, This bridge is of wrought 
iron, and is exactly midway between Aspinwall and Pa- 

* " In all muddy places, down to the verge of the ocean, are impene- 
trable thickets, formed of mangroves, chiefly rhizophoras and avicennias, 
which exhale pntrid miasmata. . . . Myriads of mosquitoes and sandflies 
fill the air, while huge alligators sun themselves on the slimy soil. . . . 
To destroy these dreaded swamps is almost impossible." — Seemanns 
Voyage of II. M.S. Herald. 

LxJ O 

^ < 


nama; and it is not a little singular that the bridge 
thrown across the Nile between Alexandria and Cairo 
is also exactly halfway ; in other words, both the great 
isthmus transits of the world are intersected at half their 
length by a large river. The Barbacoas bridge is of six 
spans, built of boiler iron, with a top and bottom chord 
two feet in breadth and one inch in thickness, joined 
by a web of boiler iron nine feet in height at the centre, 
and seven at the ends. The rails are laid on iron 
floor-girders, three feet apart, and the whole structure 
is supported by five piers and two abutments twenty- 
six feet wide and eight feet in thickness, increasing 
in the proportion of an inch to the foot down to their 
foundations, which are constructed of piles and con- 

The highest point of the line is 37f miles from the 
Atlantic, and is 263 feet above the mean level of that 
ocean. The maximum grade on the Atlantic slope is 
one in ninety ; on the Pacific descent it is rather more, 
viz. one in eighty-eight. 

Of the road 23f miles are level, and 28f straight, 
but there are some very abrupt curves. There are no 
less than 134 culverts, drains, and bridges of 10 feet 
and under, and as many as 170 bridges from 12 feet 
span to 625 feet span. 

The line is only a single one, but there are four very 
commodious sidings, viz. one at Gatun, 7|- miles from 
Aspimvall, one near Barbacoas, 22 miles, one at Mata- 
chin, 30 miles, and one at the summit, 37 miles. 

Experience has proved that there is no difficulty in 
keeping the line in order at a reasonable expense, but, 


on the contrary, that it continues in better condition 
than similar works in northern latitudes, where the 
climate appears to have a more injurious effect than 
within the tropics. 

Stations occur every four miles; the house is the resi- 
dence of the track-master, who, with ten labourers, has 
charge of the intervening mileage. The road is kept in 
perfect order by these men. There are twelve track- 
masters and 120 labourers in the employ of the com- 
pany, solely to look after the security of the line. Their 
wages are — track-masters, three dollars per diem ; la- 
bourers, sixty cents. 

The staff of the company is not very extensive ; the 
civil engineers, with their assistants and managing 
clerks, constituting the greatest expense. The strictest 
economy consistent with efficiency is practised: for 
example, there is an excellent locomotive shop at As- 
pinwall, in which the engineers and stokers, when not 
at work on the railroad, are employed ; and it is said 
that the business done in effecting the necessary repairs 
for steamers calling at the Bay almost supports the en- 
gineering staff and working locomotive expenses of the 

A substantial telegraph is established between Aspin- 
wall and Panama. There are twenty-six posts to the 
mile, constructed in the following manner: — a scant- 
ling, four inches square, of pitch-pine, is encased in 
cement, moulded in a cylindrical form, tapering towards 
the top, and sunk four feet in the ground. I was as- 
sured that when once dry these posts would last for 
ages ; the cost of each was five dollars, about £1 sterling. 


They have the appearance of hewn stone, and are quite 
an ornament along the line. 

The total expenditure of the Panama Railway Com- 
pany amounted to 7,407,553 dollars, or rather more than 
£1,500,000 sterling, which is very nearly £32,000 per 
mile, an expense, by the bye, below the average of our 
English lines, which is £34,638 per mile. Very few un- 
dertakings have paid better than the Panama Railway. 
A return of fifteen per cent, to the shareholders is ac- 
knowledged, but there is reason to believe that in reality 
there is a much larger profit ; and this is not to be won- 
dered at, when it is remembered that the company have 
a monopoly of transit, and charge exorbitantly ; for ex- 
ample, the passage-money is £5. 4s. 2d. ; children under 
twelve years of age, half price ; under six years, quarter- 
price. There is only one class, so that each passenger 
has to pay the same. The transit occupies about four 
hours, the distance is forty-seven miles and a half, and 
the fare therefore 2s. 2\d. per mile, the most expen- 
sive travelling in the world. At the same time the working 
expenditure is very moderate ; the fuel, for instance, is 
entirely wood, and sufficient for the whole journey there 
and back is procured for two dollars and a half, or 10s. 
This I can personally testify, having traversed the line 
both ways on the engine. The charge for freight is on 
the same high scale as the passenger traffic. Take, for 
example, live stock : cattle, by passenger train, owner's 
risk, twenty-five dollars each, the same exactly as a pas- 
senger ; sheep by passenger train, owner's risk, twelve 
dollars and a half each, the same as a child under twelve 
years of age. 


Mr. Oliphant's description of the scenery is so good, 
that I transfer it to these pages at length : — 

" When once the deadly swamp is passed, nothing can 
exceed the beauty of the vegetation through which the 
line passes. Palm-trees of many varieties weave their 
broad leaves into thick screens, to shut out the sun ; 
tufts of bamboo are interspersed with heavy trees 
whose branches support gigantic orchids, and whose 
stems are concealed amid a mass of purple convolvulus 
and divers brilliant parasites. To one only accustomed 
to see a thickly populated and highly cultivated country 
traversed by railways, and familiar with tropical jungles 
only when they are penetrated by the devious little paths 
of the woodcutter or the hunter, this dash through the 
virgin forest at the tail of a locomotive is very imposing, 
and presents, with unusual force to the mind, the im- 
portant change which steam is destined to effect on the 
face of nature." 

The above is a brief description of the only passage at 
present in use across Central America. The outlay for 
the construction of the road was no doubt very great, 
and arose partly from the entire novelty of the work 
(it was the first real tropical railway), and partly from 
the extreme paucity of labour. Men were brought to 
the locality in great numbers from China, India, Africa, 
and almost every nation in Europe, tempted no doubt 
by the very high rate of wages. 

There is no question of the unhealthiness of that 
portion of the Isthmus over which the railway runs; 
but of all the labourers the Chinese lost the greatest 
number ; for besides those carried off by disease, a strong 


suicidal tendency developed itself amongst this singular 
people, and it was not uncommon in the morning to 
find half-a-dozen bodies suspended from the trees in 
close proximity to the road. In spite, however, of every 
difficulty, the railway was completed in five years ; and 
in spite of the great expense the undertaking has proved 
by far the most remunerative enterprise of modern times. 
From the report of the company to the Legislature of 
New York, it appears that although only in part opened, 
the road had paid, up to January, 1855, in the form of 
dividends, fifteen and a half per cent, on its stock, besides 
the interest on its bonds. 

For the year ending January 1st, 1856, it appears from 
an official statement published by the directors, that 
the gross earnings of the road were 1,166,552 dollars; 
expenses, repairs, interest on bonds, etc., 395,345 dol- 
lars ; leaving a net profit of 771,237 dollars, out of which 
were paid two semi-annual dividends of six per cent., 
equal to twelve per cent, for the year, with 133,165 
dollars, or three per cent., undivided surplus. The 
earnings for the year were fifteen per cent., against twelve 
per cent, estimated. 

For the year ending January 1st, 1857, the gross 
earnings of the road were 1,459,525 dollars; expenses, 
repairs, interest on bonds, etc., 530,252 dollars; leaving 
a net profit of 929,273 dollars, out which were paid two 
semi-annual dividends of six per cent., equal to twelve 
per cent, for the year, with 344,216 dollars, or about 
eight per cent., undivided surplus. The net profits for 
the year were therefore twenty per cent. 

These earnings, it should be remembered, have been 


made on a divided travel ; the transit route, vid Nica- 
ragua, carrying very nearly one-half of the passengers 
between the seas. And moreover it must be borne in 
mind that the Panama Railway depends upon transit 
alone — I mean passengers and freight passing from ocean 
to ocean — for its profits, the local traffic and trade not 
being worth mention, inasmuch as the line does not ap- 
proach any main road or avenue of commerce ; in fact, it 
runs through the primaeval forest throughout its entire 
length, and is simply a bridge between the Atlantic and 
the Pacific, and not in any respect a centre towards 
which the products of the surrounding country natu- 
rally flow. In proof of this, I will just enumerate the 
various abodes of men on the line, and extract from my 
journal a few remarks on each settlement. 

Leaving Aspinwall, we crossed from the island (Man- 
zanilla) to the mainland, if the swamp deserves the 
name, the connecting link being a solid embankment, 
with a sluiceway intersecting it. The mangroves ap- 
pear impenetrable on each side. Gatun is the first 
settlement ; it is seven miles from Aspinwall, and situ- 
ated on a little stream of the same name, which is close 
to its confluence with the Chagres, and crossed by a 
bridge of ninety-seven feet span. A wooden house and 
a few huts, with a very limited clearing, the population 
certainly under a hundred, make up Gatun. It used 
formerly to be a stopping-place for the bongos, or na- 
tive boats, and certainly throve in those days, but the 
rapidity of the locomotive has taken away the native 
breath, and the glories of Gatun may be reckoned of 
the past Bugio Soldado is another settlement also esta- 


blished on the banks of the Chagres ; it is composed of 
reed and cane huts, and is eight miles beyond Gatun, 
population about fifty. This place was the favourite resi- 
dence of J. L. Stephens, the great Central American tra- 
veller, and President of the Eailway Company. Then we 
have Buena Vista. About twenty-five rude huts form the 
village, which supplies a good proportion of labourers for 
this part of the line ; number of souls say one hundred. 
Barbacoas is quite a small settlement, numbering about 
thirty inhabitants; the locality is interesting from the 
noble bridge which here spans the Bio Chagres, exactly 
halfway between Panama and Aspinwall, viz. twenty- 
three miles and three-quarters ; and also because " bar- 
bacoas" is a general term for Indian suspension bridges, 
with us a modern invention, but known well to the 
Asiatics and Americans from time immemorial. 

Up to this station the line has been confined to the 
right bank of the river; it now runs along the left 
bank for about eight miles, when river and rail separate, 
one turning northward, the other south-eastward. The 
next collection of huts is Baila Mona, forty-five inha- 
bitants. Gorgona, a large village, and probably con- 
taining three hundred, is fast dwindling away. Then 
comes Matachin, about one hundred and sixty people. 
Here the trains pass each other by means of commo- 
dious sidings. Near the summit there are the faintest 
remains of what was once the largest assemblage of 
habitations on the line ; it was called Culebra, and was 
the railway terminus in 1854, just twelve miles from 
Panama ; the distance required a whole day to over- 
come, on mules which struggled through the mud like 


ships labouring in a heavy sea. At Culebra the inha- 
bitants do not number more than forty. Paraiso (Pa- 
radise) is the last native village worthy of mention ; 
the huts are just as rude as those on the other side of 
the summit ; the people, I should think, would not ex- 
ceed, all told, fifty souls. Paraiso is a curious instance 
of comparative value. I should have been much more 
inclined to call Sheerness Paradise than the specimen 
just alluded to. 

I have now enumerated the Isthmian settlements: 
adding to their numbers the men employed as plate- 
layers, etc., it will be seen that the entire population 
does not exceed 1500. There is not a road in the lo- 
cality, and only one mule-track from Chorera, skirting 
as it were the district of Panama. The local traffic and 
trade therefore may be put down as next to nil. 

The wide difference between Panama and Aspinwall 
is very observable ; as regards the former, it struck me 
that it might perhaps be a shade cleaner than when last 
visited ten years before, but in a commercial point of 
view it can scarcely be said to have improved at all ; the 
same indolence still prevails, houses and public build- 
ings are falling to decay, and all the enterprise so cha- 
racteristic of olden times appears to have departed. This 
may probably be accounted for by the fact mentioned 
above, that the railway entirely avoids the city, and that 
the terminus is some distance outside the walls ; all mer- 
chandise therefore passes through the country without 
in any way affecting the prosperity of the city, and five- 
eighths of the passengers do the same. Panama on the 
Pacific has been for centuries the chief city of the Isth- 


mus, while Chagres on the Atlantic has only been looked 
upon as a mere port of entry; but now the order of 
things is reversed, the glory of the Queen of the Pacific 
is departed, while the Anglo-Saxon city on the Atlantic 
takes a high position in commerce. The site of Panama 
has been once changed. In 1512, when the Spaniards 
first arrived, they built upon the site, and took the 
name, of an Indian town then in existence. The place 
was so named from the abundance of fish in the vicinity ; 
Panama in the Indian dialect signifying " much fish." 
In 1521 the town was raised to the dignity of a city by 
royal charter. In 1670 it was sacked and reduced to 
ashes by Henry Morgan, and subsequently rebuilt on its 
present site. 

"The city of Panama lies in lat. 8° 56' 56" N., long. 
79° 31' 12" W., at the foot of the Cerro de Ancon, a 
little peninsula connected towards the west with the 
mainland. It is divided into two parishes : that within 
the walls, the city, is called San Felipe ; that without, 
the suburb, Santa Ana. Panama differs considerably 
from the other towns of Spanish America: its high 
buildings, tiled roofs, numerous churches, and massive 
walls, give it an air reminding one, at first sight, of a 
European town; on a closer inspection, however, the 
peculiarity of the old Spanish style becomes evident. 
San Felipe, the best and most regularly-built part, is 
surrounded by walls and watch-towers, which are at 
present rather dilapidated ; the fortifications are irregu- 
lar and not strong, though the walls are high, the bas- 
tions having been constructed at various times, as the 
menaces of pirates and other enemies have suggested ; 


the most modern seem to be those on the eastern and 
southern sides, erected in 1778. The city has four 
gates, two opening towards the sea, two towards the 
land ; the traveller coming from Chagres enters by 
the western one, which was formerly strongly defended, 
and connected with the main entrance by means of a 
drawbridge. The principal streets run from west to east, 
and are crossed by others extending from north to south, 
from sea to sea, preserving a current of air, which greatly 
adds to the salubrity of the place. The streets are paved 
and regular, but rather narrow, seldom exceeding more 
than fifty feet in breadth ; the pavement for foot pas- 
sengers is covered by the balconies of the houses, and 
a person may walk almost all over the town, during a 
shower of rain, without getting wet. 

" The population of Panama is composed of three 
races, the Caucasian, the American, and the African, 
and the numerous shades and varieties produced by 
their intermixture. Any man, whether black, brown, or 
white, may hold the highest office in the state. The 
whites are sadly in want of moral principle — probably 
the result of their religion — and steadiness of purpose, 
for which the enervating climate may account ; but they 
are hospitable to strangers and generous to the poor 
and needy. The negroes are treacherous, thievish, and 
extremely indolent ; they work one or two days, and 
then cease until necessity compels them to resume their 
occupation. " Only fools and horses work " is one of 
their favourite sayings, and is the principle on which 
they act. Slavery has long ceased to exist. The cha- 
racter of the half-castes is, if possible, worse than that of 


the negroes ; they have all the vices and none of the 
virtues of their parents ; they are weak in body, and 
more liable to disease than either the whites or other 
races ; when they intermarry with their own shade they 
may have children, but these seldom, if ever, live to 
grow up. 

"The population of the canton of Panama in 1823 
was nearly 11,000 ; in 1843 it was less than half, and 
now it is about 10,000, by far the greater proportion 
being of the coloured races. There are a few public 
buildings deserving of notice, — the cathedral, and some 
of the convents. The ruins of buildings formerly devoted 
to religious purposes cover one-half of the superficial 
area of the city, a strong proof of the wealth and bi- 
gotry of the inhabitants in former times ; none of the 
convents are now in use. The Jesuits' college is the 
finest ruin in the town; it was commenced in 1739, but 
was not completed in 1773, when the Jesuits were ex- 
pelled from Spanish America, and it has never been 
finished ; it is two stories high. The church attached 
to it, which is in tolerable repair, is used for theatrical 
exhibitions, rope-dancers, etc. etc. Most of the private 
buildings of San Felipe are constructed of stone, those 
of Santa Ana of wood. They are two stories high, sur- 
rounded by balconies, and have tiled roofs, the violence 
of the rains not permitting the use of flat ones. All have 
large doorways, sufficiently spacious to admit a person 
on horseback. The halls are small. Near the staircase 
is a door leading into the courtyard, and to the stables, 
the bathroom, and the well. In most houses the lower 
story is let to shopkeepers, spirit-sellers, and trades- 

p 2 


people. The first floor is inhabited by the servants, and 
the npper, the most salubrious, by the landlord and his 
family. All the apartments are large and airy; the 
drawing-rooms are generally thirty feet long, twenty- 
four feet broad, and twenty feet high. The floor is either 
of wood, brick, sandstone, or marble. Every room has 
one or more folding doors, opening towards the balcony ; 
the wings have a shutter, supplying the place of win- 
dows. Sometimes a piece of glass is inserted, but regular 
windows do not exist, and will probably never be intro- 
duced ; they prevent a free current of air, an indispens- 
able condition in so hot a climate. Besides the doors, 
there are, higher up, smaller apertures, mostly in the 
shape of stars, by means of which a further reduction 
of the temperature is produced. The walls are from 
two feet to two feet six inches thick ; they are de- 
corated with pictures, crosses, figures of saints, etc., and 
are generally whitewashed, which, though depriving 
them of that aspect of comfort by which our papered 
rooms are distinguished, makes them look cool, and pre- 
vents them from harbouring centipedes, scorpions, and 
other noxious animals. The balconies are from four to 
five feet wide, protected from sun and rain by the 
projecting roof, and abundantly provided with flower- 
pots containing roses, balsams, and carnations. In a 
shady corner stands the filtering-stone, and several 
earthenware jars containing water, about which there 
is a degree of cleanliness not observed in any other 
part of the house. The furniture, which is very simple, 
is mostly imported, either from Europe, North Ame- 
rica, or China. In all the rooms are hammocks, in which 


the Panamians, and the inhabitants of the Isthmus in 
general, may be seen swinging themselves for hours in 

The following observations on the prevailing winds 
and weather in the neighbourhood of Panama are the 
result of some experience, and have been carefully col- 

During the first three months of the year the weather 
is beautiful, with a bright clear sky and, almost without 
intermission, fresh northerly winds. In April there are 
frequent calms, and when there is wind it is for the 
most part light; although it generally prevails from 
the north, yet southerly airs are by no means uncom- 
mon ; the north wind dies away in squalls accompanied 
by rain, thunder, and lightning. The weather in May 
is much the same as that of the preceding month, ex- 
cept that the coming wet season makes itself more felt ; 
occasionally there are fresh squalls from north-east and 
south-east. The rainy season fairly sets in at the begin- 
ning of June. Squalls and heavy rain constantly alter- 
nate. Strong breezes from the south prevail during the 
day, but at night light winds from the northward (the 
land wind) generally clear up the weather, and towards 
the end of the month as much as a week of sunshine 
may be experienced. July, August, and September are 
wet months, but the rain seldom continues more than 
twenty-four hours; it however descends in a perfect 
deluge, and I have known the streets of the city of 
Panama so completely flooded that the boys amused 
themselves by swimming round the plaza. The prevailing 

* Dr. Seemann's Voyage of H.M.S. Herald, vol. i. pp. 289-293. 


winds are from the southward, with squalls. Towards 
the end of the latter month there is generally an equi- 
noctial gale from the south, lasting the best part of 
a week without cessation. In October south winds 
begin to take off, and are often alternated by land 
breezes from the north ; the weather begins to clear, 
and indicates the approaching end of the wet season. 
The intervals of fine weather increase in November, 
and towards the end of the month the dry season may 
be said to have fairly set in. South winds now become 
faint, while puffs off the land often clear the sky. De- 
cember is calm, as a rule, but in the first part of it 
gentle south winds blow, while at the latter end norths 
are frequent, and fine weather may be said to be esta- 
blished. When the wind from either the north or the 
south continues fresh at Panama for more than twelve 
hours, it is certain to amount almost to a gale at the 
entrance of the bay, at Punta Mala for example. A 
south wind brings in a long heavy swell, which breaks 
with great force against the reef; otherwise the anchor- 
age is not on the whole insecure ; its great fault is the 
distance ships must anchor from the landing-place. 

Aspinwall is indeed a contrast; there Anglo-Saxon 
energy is visible on every side. The bay is usually 
crowded with shipping, and the wharves heaped with 
merchandise ; and this, be it remembered, on a site that 
ten years ago was a gloomy swamp, infested with snakes 
and alligators. On the 29th of February, 1852 (leap 
year), I must not say the first stone was laid, for the 
place is built only of wood, but a city was founded by 
Don Victoriano Paredes, Secretary of State for Foreign 


Affairs of New Granada, and by him named Aspinwall, 
as a jnst tribute to one of the railway promoters. The 
town or city is quite New England in the style of its 
buildings, dazzling with whitewash, and brilliant with 
its green jalousies. The usual American hotels, with the 
customary bars, flourish luxuriantly : the Howard, City, 
and Aspinwall Hotels seem to be the best ; the charge 
is 12s. 6d. per diem ; but very fair accommodation can 
be obtained at a much lower rate. I would, however, 
recommend the too confiding Britisher to come to an 
understanding about the terms in the first place. 

There are now about 3500 inhabitants, and the place 
is rapidly increasing in population and wealth. The 
houses are built upon an island, called Manzanilla, of 
very limited extent, not more than a square mile at 
the utmost. It has been ceded in perpetuity to the 
company by the Government of New Granada, and it is 
leased for building lots to individuals, no doubt very 
profitably. Every effort is made to increase the avail- 
able space by bringing down trucks of rubble and 
tumbling it into the sea, whenever the locomotive has 
any spare time from ordinary duties ; by this means not 
only will considerable ground be gained, but the wharves 
will be brought out into deeper water ; one, indeed, 
has been constructed about three hundred yards in 
length by nearly fifteen in breadth. At the head of 
this wharf there is a good reservoir, containing many 
thousands of gallons of rain-water, caught during the 
wet season, and which is sufficient for the supply of 
town and shipping. The island of Manzanilla, being 
of low coral formation, does not possess any springs, 


and the wells which have been dug produce water 
too brackish for use. There are several other piers, 
most of them roofed over, and all conveying the idea 
of careful construction and great strength. The freight 
warehouse of the railway company is a sight well worth 
seeing; it is a substantial stone building, with three 
tramways running into it from the wharf; inside are piled 
up a miscellaneous collection of merchandise from all 
parts of the world, viz. boxes of dollars, bar silver, gold 
ore, bales of Peruvian bark, ceroons of indigo and cochi- 
neal, hundreds of bags of coffee, cacao, sarsaparilla, 
copper ore, thousands of hides, oyster-shells, barrels of 
salt provisions, flour, cheeses, and biscuit, Manchester 
goods, and many other products too numerous to mention. 
The company's mess-house is one of the neatest and 
pleasantest establishments it has ever been my fortune 
to visit. Some cocoanut-trees, tastefully distributed 
around, give it quite a picturesque aspect; whilst 
its situation close to the beach, and to windward of 
the city, is enviably cool and enjoyable. So much for 
out of doors : within the hospitable walls, the eye is 
delighted by the neatness and order everywhere evi- 
denced ; indeed, he is a lucky man who can secure an 
introduction to Colonel Totten, who is the presiding 
chief not only in the mess-house but over the entire 
transit. I was particularly struck with the thoughtful 
care bestowed by that gentleman and his amiable lady 
on the comfort and happiness of those employed on 
the Colonel's working staff, and therefore under his 
immediate superintendence ; they messed together just 
like the officers of a regiment, with the exception that 


Mrs. Totten always graced the table with her presence, 
and infused a degree of domesticity into the " mess- 
house " which I must confess went far to disperse my 
previous notions about American society. I gladly take 
the opportunity now afforded me of tendering my sin- 
cere thanks to Colonel Totten and his staff, not only for 
their kindness to me personally, but also to the officers 
of the ' Gorgon,' who were provided with free passes over 
the railroad, and thus had an opportunity of visiting 
Panama, and of obtaining a sight of the Pacific after a 
manner strongly in contrast to the toilsome and labo- 
rious journey of Vasco Nunez de Balboa. 

Although Aspinwall is in the territory of New Gra- 
nada, it has a separate municipal government vested in 
American residents, for the most part connected with 
the railway company. 

The following steamship lines run from the termini 
of the Panama Eailway : — 

1. The Atlantic and Pacific Steam-Ship Company 
(New York and Aspinwall). 

2. The Pacific Mail Steam-Ship Company (Panama 
and San Francisco). 

3. The Central American Line (Panama, Costarica, 
Nicaragua, San Salvador, Guatemala). 

4. British Pacific Steam Navigation Company (Pa- 
nama, Buenaventura, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, and 

5. The Eoyal Mail Steam-Packet Company (South- 
ampton, West Indian Islands, Aspinwall, Greytown, 

In addition to the above, there are lines of sailing 


vessels and screw-steamers running between Europe and 

There is a good lighthouse on the point, not built 
up at great expense and unnecessary solidity, after the 
English fashion, but raised upon a strong iron frame- 
work, well calculated to withstand the action of the sea. 

Unfortunately, the harbour accommodation at each 
terminus is very indifferent. At Aspinwall the bay is 
quite open to the " northers," the scourge of the coast. 
On the 31st of December, 1854, a "norther " destroyed 
the wharves and wrecked every vessel at anchor, except 
the American steamer ' North Star ' and the mail 
steamer ' Derwent," which got up steam and left the 
anchorage just in time. The northers are of periodical 
occurrence, and cause great damage. An account, for 
instance, has only just been received, describing consi- 
derable disasters to the shipping this year. The Royal 
Mail steamer 'Avon,' while lying at Aspinwall with 
tw T o anchors down, was driven ashore early on the 
morning of the 22nd of November, 1862, by a norther, 
and the heavy rollers setting into the bay. The crew 
were landed by means of a line thrown from the ship 
to the shore, and so passed along it through the surf, 
which was running over the railway up to the houses. 
The United States brig of war ' Bainbridge ' also dragged 
her anchors and drove towards the beach, having thrown 
overboard her guns and stores, and cut away her masts. 
The 'Bainbridge,' however, did not go ashore, as her 
anchors brought her up close to the reef after the 
crew had left her. The American Mail steamer ' Ocean 
Queen' succeeded in getting out, but with the loss of 

T ' H- j 

z: i 

CO £ 

z $ 


paddle-box, and other damage ; as also did her Majesty's 
ship 'Jason.' The Royal Mail steam-ship 'Tamar,' with 
the outward mails per Atrato, arrived at Aspinwall on 
the 23rd of November, but could not communicate in 
consequence of the boisterous weather and heavy sea. 

The Bay of Panama cannot by any perversion of 
the term be called a port; it is simply an open road- 
stead ; and at certain seasons not particularly safe. The 
steamers are obliged to anchor some miles from the 
shore, and passengers, goods, and supplies have to be 
transshipped in a small steamer and lighters ; and this 
can only be done at certain times of tide, for the rise 
and fall is great, and the water very shallow near the 
shore. In bad weather there is considerable uncertainty 
and danger, and sometimes disembarkation is delayed a 
considerable time. 

The following extract is from 'A Statement to the 
Public,' drawn up by a committee of the passengers on 
the steamers ' Illinois ' and ' George Law,' adopted at a 
meeting of said passengers, and ordered to be published, 
June 16, 1856:— 

"On the arrival of the 'John L. Stephens' at her 
anchorage at Panama, the passengers were placed on 
board a small steamer, and a lighter filled with baggage, 
to be conveyed to the shore, distant about five miles. 
The number of passengers was about 750, about 500 of 
whom were crowded on the steamer, and the residue on 
the lighter. Both vessels were filled beyond their capa- 
city, and in the event of an ordinary accident the re- 
sults must have been fearful. Shortly after embarking, 
the rain poured down in torrents, which continued up 


to the time of landing — nearly two hours. The passen- 
gers in the lighter, mostly women and children, being 
wholly unprotected, w r ere drenched to the skin, while 
those in the steamer fared but little better." 

Close to Panama there are two small islands, Fla- 
minco and Perico, which dominate the city and anchor- 
age of Panama. The possession of these islands would 
command the transit route. About twelve years ago, 
when I was serving in the Bay of Panama, they were 
offered for a small sum to our Government, but of 
course declined, probably from fear of bringing the 
Americans about our ears. The United States, how- 
ever, fully alive to their importance, did their best by 
occupation to secure possession, and it is more than 
rumoured that the purchase has now been effected, 
thus enabling that enterprising nation to command the 
monopoly of the transit from sea to sea. 




It must not be supposed that the Panama transit has 
always held the undisputed monopoly of the passage 
from sea to sea; on the contrary, long before it was 
completed, a formidable rival route was opened and in 
full operation. It commenced at Greytown ; passengers 
were forwarded by steamer up the river San Juan and 
across Lake Nicaragua, whence a ride of about thirteen 
miles across the intervening land carried them to the 
Pacific. The profit to be derived from opening up a 
short route for the thousands of Californian immigrants 
wending their way in a steady stream to that golden 
land being manifest, attention was turned to the water 
communication of Nicaragua; and it was soon ascer- 
tained by certain sharp Americans, that although it 
could not be made available for a great ship-canal, yet it 
could be easily adapted for passenger traffic under cover 
of forming a ship canal from ocean to ocean. 

The Nicaraguan scheme of a great ship-canal has 


always held a high position in public favour: it has 
been warmly advocated, especially by the Emperor of 
the French, and the idea appears to have taken a firm 
hold upon the mind of all classes of the natives of 
the republic, as a certain means of benefiting them- 
selves and their country. There was not, therefore, any 
difficulty in obtaining a charter for such an object, and 
one was accordingly procured by Messrs. Vanderbilt and 
White in 1849. On the 19th of April, 1852, a conven- 
tion, guaranteeing the neutrality and independence of 
any exclusive control by any nation of the proposed 
canal, was signed at Washington by John M. Clayton 
and Sir Henry Bulwer. This treaty between Great 
Britain and America, entered into from a desire " to 
consolidate the amity which now so happily subsists be- 
tween the two Powers," by the settlement of all ques- 
tions connected with the proposed route from the 
Atlantic to the Pacific by the river San Juan and over 
or about the Lakes of Nicaragua or Managua, or either 
of them, is also expressly stated to apply in principle to 
other modes of transit across Central America, whether 
by railway or otherwise, which may be at any future 
time constructed. 

The first article of this convention was as follows : — 
" The Government of the United States and Great Bri- 
tain hereby declare that neither the one nor the other 
will ever obtain or maintain for itself any exclusive 
control over the said ship-canal, agreeing that neither 
will ever erect or maintain any fortifications command- 
ing the same or in the vicinity thereof, or occupy or 
olonize, or assume or exercise any dominion over Ni- 


caragua, Costarica, the Mosquito coast, or any part 
of Central America ; nor will either make use of any 
protection which either affords or may afford, or any al- 
liance which either has or may have, to or with any 
state or people for the purpose of maintaining or erect- 
ing any such fortification, or of occupying, fortifying, or 
colonizing Nicaragua, Costarica, the Mosquito coast, 
or of any part of Central America, or of assuming or 
exercising dominion over the same." The second article 
enacts that in case of war between the two countries, the 
canal is to be neutral territory, and not to be molested 
by either of the belligerents : and that this inviolability 
is to extend to such reasonable distance from each end 
of the said canal or pass as may be hereafter determined. 
The third article provides that parties contracting to 
construct such canal, after having obtained the consent 
and authority of the local government interested, shall 
be protected by the contracting Powers against any un- 
just detention, seizure, or any violence whatsoever. 
Fourth, Great Britain and America to use all their in- 
fluence to induce the local governments to erect two 
free ports or harbours at each end of the canal. Fifth, 
w T hen complete, the canal to be guaranteed from inter- 
ruption or seizure, but conditionally only that all shall 
be fair, and no unjust favouritism of one nation over 
another be shown by the company. If the company 
should transgress this wise and equitable regulation, 
each of the Powers may adopt such measures or seek 
such redress as may be deemed advisable : six months' 
notice being previously given to other guaranteeing 
states. Sixth, other Powers to be invited to form this 


It now only remained to raise the money for making 
the ship-canal ; a company for that purpose was formed 
at New York, called the " Pacific and Atlantic Canal 
Company," and a deputation, consisting of Messrs. White 
and Vanderbilt, came over to England to arrange with 
British capitalists for the concession of half the Nicara- 
guan shares ; but beyond a vague promise from the prin- 
cipal capitalists, — that if, after a proper survey of the 
proposed route, and the exhibition of a reliable estimate 
of the probable cost, the project should appear feasible, 
they and others would be happy to assist in effecting so 
great and desirable a work, — nothing was done in this 
country. The New York company dispatched Colonel O. 
W. Childs, favourably known in the States as the engi- 
neer who effected the enlargement of the Erie Canal, 
assisted by several young men, to make an accurate sur- 
vey of the Nicaraguan route ; but, as said the ' Times,' 
the strenuous advocate of the Nicaraguan scheme, how- 
ever high the estimation in which Mr. Childs may be 
held in America, in this country nothing less than "a 
report, confirmed by Government engineers," will induce 
British capitalists to embark in a project of which the 
random, hap-hazard estimates, as given by friends and 
opponents, vary from three to ten millions sterling ! 
The ' New York Herald ' affirmed at the time that there 
was no real intention on the part of the New York 
company to enter seriously upon the work of a ship- 
canal; and that their veritable and sole object was, so 
to improve the transit to California by the San Juan 
river, as to render it a preferable route to that by way 
of Chagres. In this the ' New York Herald ' was not far 


from the truth, as is evidenced by the date and terms of 
the respective charters obtained from the Nicaraguan Go- 
vernment. The first was signed on the 27th of August, 
1849, and ratifications exchanged with amendments on 
the 9th of March, 1850. It granted the exclusive right 
to construct a ship-canal, and to control and manage it 
for eighty-five years. 

Art. 5. The Company agrees to pay the State 10,000 
dollars on ratification, and 10,000 dollars per annum 
until the completion of the canal; also 200,000 dollars 
of stock. 

Art. 6. The Company agrees to pay out of the in- 
come of the canal, for the first twenty years, 20 per 
cent, of the net profits after deducting the interest of the 
capital at 7 per cent. ; and for each year afterwards 25 
per cent., after deducting the said 7 per cent. ; and du- 
ring the twelve years allowed for construction, the 
Company is to pay 10 per cent, of the net profit, with- 
out any deduction of interest, of any route, whether 
rail, carriage, or other means of communication, which 
the Company may establish. 

Art. 12. The State grants the right to take from all 
public lands all wood, stone, lime, or timber, and to use 
such portions of public lands as may be required for 
houses, wharves, docks, and stations. 

Art. 27. The State makes a free donation of land 
contiguous to the river San Juan, of eight sections, 
each six miles long by six broad ; the colonists on said 
lands shall be exempt for ten years from all public ser- 
vices or taxes, but shall be subject to the laws of Nica- 



No attempt was made to construct a canal, and pro- 
bably no such idea was intended, as the second charter 
was obtained on the 14th August, 1851. It authorized 
the Pacific and Atlantic Canal Company to graft upon 
their body another company, to be called the " Acces- 
sory Transit Company," " with the sole object of facili- 
tating the construction of the maritime canal ;" and it 
expressly stipulated — 

" Art. 8. That the charter should become null when- 
ever the primary one of 22nd of September, 1849, should 
expire or be forfeited." 

Under this new charter the real objects of the canal- 
scheme cropped out; the projectors opened a transit, 
and strained every nerve to overshadow Nicaragua, and 
get under their immediate influence and control that 
magnificent country, whether by fair means or foul was 
a matter of indifference. In 1852 the line was opened 
most successfully ; and as its manifold advantages over 
the Panama Transit became known, thousands of emi- 
grants wended their way to California by the new route. 
The passage was effected as follows : — the ocean-steamer 
could at that time enter the harbour of Greytown, 
whence passengers embarked on board the river steam- 
boats, vessels drawing three feet at most (precisely si- 
milar to those in use on the Mississippi), and proceeded 
up the river San Juan as far as the Castillo Viejo Rapid. 
Here they changed boats ; light carriages conveying 
them on a tramway from the foot to the head of the 
rapid, where they re-embarked, and made the rest of the 
journey to San Carlos at the head of the river. At 
this place there was sometimes another change to the 


lake steamer which ran between San Carlos and Vir- 
gen Bay, on the north-western shores of the Lake Ni- 
caragua. Here the final disembarkation took place, the 
passengers crossing on mules to the Pacific over a 
well-made road, thirteen miles in length, extending to 
the beach of the small port of San Juan del Sur, where 
the largest ocean steamers can approach quite close to 
the shore to receive their freight and passengers. Al- 
though there were no less than six changes, this route 
speedily became very popular ; the charges were compa- 
ratively moderate, being some pounds less than the cost 
via Panama, while often two days in time were saved, 
to say nothing of shortening the sea- voyage on either 
side the Isthmus. 

The healthiness of the climate, the beauty and va- 
riety of the scenery, the superiority of the ports at each 
terminus, the abundance and cheapness of the provi- 
sions, the gain of about two clear days in time, and the 
much cheaper rate of fare, could not fail to attract the 
public to the Nicaraguan route in ever-increasing pro- 
portion ; nevertheless, the Accessory Transit Company 
was not destined to reap the fruit of this largely remu- 
nerative traffic. Unfortunately for the shareholders, 
there seems to have been quarrelling and heartburning 
from the very commencement of the undertaking. The 
project, if the ' New York Herald ' be right, originated 
under false pretences. The Accessory Transit was an- 
nounced to be an accessory and necessary adjunct to the 
Pacific and Atlantic Canal, and brought into operation, it 
was alleged, solely with a view to forward that gigantic 
scheme; but it is needless to say that nothing was ever 

Q 2 


done towards even the commencement of a canal, and 
at an early date that fiction, having played its part, was 
allowed to die ont. As might have been expected with 
such antecedents, rival parties soon sprang up and came 
to loggerheads in the Company itself; and an impression 
got abroad that one section was trying to depress the 
market-price of the stock, so as to buy in, get a majo- 
rity of shares, and thus obtain the control. However, be 
that as it may, it is certain that an unscrupulous policy 
characterized the proceedings of the Company, and it 
w r as not long before their actions began to attract public 
attention. In the first place, the agents and captains 
of the steamers connected with the "Accessory Transit 
Company " refused payment of the port-dues at Grey- 
town ; thev had for some time cavilled at the harbour 
regulations, which enabled the properly constituted au- 
thorities to levy tolls for the purpose of maintaining the 
requisite order and discipline, both ashore and afloat, — a 
matter of vital importance, when it is considered with 
what a lawless rabble the municipal officers often had 
to deal. The instance to which I allude was that of the 
'Prometheus,' when, to the usual application for the pay- 
ment of the port-dues, a most positive refusal was given : 
Mr. Vanderbilt, the head of the company, being, it is 
said, on board at the time, so that the refusal did not 
emanate from an ignorant servant of the company, but 
directly from one who was fully cognizant of the import- 
ance of the step he was taking. However, this wilful 
violation of law was not allowed to pass unnoticed or 
unchecked ; the authorities appealed to the captain of 
an English man-of-war, H.M. brig Express, then in port, 


on the plea that the town being within the Mosquito 
territory, with the Mosquito flag* flying over it, and the 
country under British protection, it was his duty to de- 
fend them from spoliation. Commander W. F. Fead felt 
the justice of the claim, and the consul approving, action 
was at once taken. 

It is with great pleasure that I take this opportunity 
of drawing attention to the manner in which Comman- 
der Fead performed his duty ; indeed, the admiration of 
all parties was elicited by his skilful management. He 
got his brig under way, and manoeuvred her in so mas- 
terly a manner, that the steamer found it impossible to 
escape; and to the chagrin of the defaulters, the port 
dues were exacted to the uttermost farthing before the 
vessel was allowed to proceed on her voyage. Com- 
mander Fead died soon after ; his death, it is supposed, 
being hastened by the treatment he met with from the 
Admiralty. It is due to the memory of a true English- 
man to state that a more gallant officer, or a better sea- 
man, it would have been hard to find anywhere ; yet in 
spite of his well-known character and services, his act 
was disavowed with the most nervous haste, and he was 
removed from the station as quickly as possible. 

The following extract from the ' United Service Jour- 
nal 1 will show the course taken by the authorities. 
" H.M. steam-frigate Arrogant, corvette Calypso, and brig 
Express were in the harbour of Greytown on the 19th 
of January, 1852. The 'Arrogant' had been dispatched 

* The Mosquito flag is formed by the English Union Jack in the upper 
canton ; the remainder alternate blue and white horizontal stripes, with a 
crown in the lower canton. 


by the Admiral of the West Indian Station, with assu- 
rance to Commodore Parker that the British Govern- 
ment entirely disavowed the acts of the Consul and 
the captain of the 'Express,' in the exercise of any au- 
thority whatever in connection with the Mosquito Govern- 
ment or interfering in any way with foreign com- 
merce at San Juan (Greytown). The most friendly 
feeling existed between the officers of the ships of both 
countries. Salutes were exchanged on the 16 th, on 
the Commanders visiting each other's ships. Commodore 
Parker was highly complimented by Captain Robinson 
hoisting the American ensign during the salute. It was 
returned by the ' Albany,' * with the British ensign at 
her main."f 

The mere fear that Mr. Vanderbilt would " tell his 
big brother " was quite sufficient to scare the English 
Government into adopting the measures they did ; mea- 
sures, it must be admitted, not at all calculated to add 
to the prestige of the country, or to elevate themselves 
in the estimation of the naval service. 

Thus the Accessory Company failed in their attempt 
to ignore Greytown ; but from this period may be dated 
the most bitter hatred between the townspeople and 
the employes connected with the Transit Company. 
And here I must explain that Greytown is situated on 
the right-hand or mainland going in, and the com- 
pany's buildings, stores, etc., on the opposite side of the 

* Commodore Parker had his broad pendant on board the U.S. steam 
frigate Saranac ; he does not appear to have condescended to return the 
salute himself, but delegated that duty to the ' Albauy,' a sloop of war. 

t United Service Journal, 1852, part i., page 442. 


harbour, on Punta Arenas, and that one channel from 
the river San Juan runs close to the town, and another 
skirts the shore of the Company's sand-spit. In the 
bitter rivalry and hatred of the contending parties, 
each did their best to i?nprove, as they said, their respec- 
tive channels, by driving piles and placing timber-dams 
in certain positions ; and with such vigour was this im- 
provement carried on, that the natural process of silting 
up was hastened to such a degree, that the port may be 
said to have been almost destroyed in consequence. At 
the same time the antagonism was not confined to the 
water, it raged with equal fury on land ; and so far did 
the Company carry their hatred, that their employes 
were forbidden, on pain of dismissal, from even visiting 
Greytown, and consequently they were forced to reside 
on the point opposite. 

The main object of the prime mover or movers in 
these transactions was probably to cause the commercial 
downfall of Greytown, and the construction of a place 
of business, which would ultimately become a town, on 
their own locality, Punta Arenas. It is easy to under- 
stand the large amount of money which might have 
been realized by the conversion of their sand-spit into 
town lots ; but " when rogues fall out, honest men come 
by their own," and in this case the rogues overshot their 
mark, and after a variety of vicissitudes lost their tran- 
sit and their hold on Nicaragua altogether. Had they 
succeeded in maintaining the route, and in gradually 
acquiring possession of the adjoining district, England 
would indeed have had cause to rue the day. The 
failure of the Accessory Transit Company to monopolize 


the Nicaraguan Transit has been of immense political 
importance to this country. 

We now come to one of the darkest pages in the 
history of this distracted country, and one which stamps 
indelible disgrace upon all connected with it; I allude 
to the bombardment and destruction of Greytown. I 
have narrated above the hatred which existed between 
the townspeople and the Company, and how the former 
compelled the latter to pay the port dues. This consti- 
tuted offence number one. 

The second occurrence was after this wise. About the 
end of 1853 the captain of a river-steamer shot the 
patron of a native bongo, while their respective vessels 
were passing on the San Juan, merely because the pa- 
tron used some coarse expressions towards him in the 
brief conversation which usually ensues upon two vessels 
meeting. It was reported at the time that Mr. Borland, 
American minister to Nicaragua, who was then on his 
way home on board the steamer, instigated the captain 
to commit the deed; but be that as it may, it is cer- 
tain that the passengers and crew of the steamboat, at 
Mr. Borland's instance, resisted the authorities sent on 
board to arrest the murderer. The American minister 
afterwards went on shore at Greytown; he was speedily 
surrounded by a mob, and while attempting to ad- 
dress the excited citizens, one of his own countrymen 
threw a bottle at him, which struck and wounded him 
on the head. This constituted the second offence for 
which the United States demanded reparation and da- 

The third and last case brought against the unfor- 


tunate townspeople was as follows. Mr. Scott, the Com- 
pany's agent, lodged a formal complaint against the 
authorities of Greytown for harbouring and refusing to 
give up a man in the employ of the Company, who was 
alleged to have committed several petty thefts, none of 
which, however, could be proved before the proper ma- 

For the above three heinous crimes the Government 
at Washington determined to exact retribution, and 
Commander Hollins, in the U.S. corvette Cyane, was 
dispatched to the locality to conduct the business. He 
arrived at a time when the harbour was entirely un- 
protected, the only vessel with a pendant flying being 
H.M. schooner Bermuda, two guns and thirty men, 
Lieutenant Jolly commanding. Commander Hollins, 
after setting forth the high crimes and misdemeanours of 
this wretched trading town, demanded an indemnity of 
25,000 dollars, which being refused, the authorities never 
dreaming of the result, he brought his broadside to bear 
upon the houses, and for six hours continued to fire shot 
and shell into the place. Strange to say, this warm can- 
nonade did not do so much damage as was expected, and 
Commander Hollins decided to consummate this mon- 
strous abuse of force by burning the town. He accord- 
ingly landed a body of about fifty men, who marched 
with colours flying and their officers at their head, ac- 
companied by Mr. Fabens, the American consular agent, 
into the town, and there deliberately set fire to the 
houses, which being entirely of wood were soon con- 
sumed. The English Consul's house fell with the rest, 
"the flag that's braved a thousand years the battle and 


the breeze" being trampled under foot amidst every 
indignity; the Mosquito flag, with the English time- 
honoured union jack quartered in the upper canton, 
sharing the same fate. 

The bombardment commenced about 10 a.m. on the 
13th July, 1854 ; the men were landed with all the ap- 
pliances for firing the town at 4 p.m., and by 6 o'clock 
on the same evening nothing remained of Greytown but 
a heap of smoking ashes. Thus upwards of 500 peace- 
able and inoffensive inhabitants, in less than twelve 
hours, found themselves houseless and destitute by this 
unqualified act of villany, and, to make matters worse, 
the rainy season was at its height. The feelings of Lieu- 
tenant Jolly, R.N., and of the officers and men of the 
' Bermuda,' may be better imagined than described ; but 
the former did not consider himself justified, with the 
handful of men at his disposal, in taking any steps be- 
yond an indignant protest ; indeed, with the above-men- 
tioned fate of Commander Fead, H.M. brig Express, 
before his eyes, I think he deserves the good opinion of 
his countrymen for doing what he did. The case was 
one, thank God! of so exceptional a character amongst 
civilized nations, that it required more than an ordinary 
man to deal with it. 

The destruction of property amounted to nearly 
£1,000,000 sterling, against £5000 demanded, and of 
course ruin was entailed on a number of individuals. It 
is painful to go on with this subject, but duty compels 
me to add that the Cabinet at Washington took upon 
itself the responsibility of this cowardly action, and 
therefore it followed as a matter of course that the 


English Government hushed up the matter as quickly 
as possible : no reparation has ever been made by the 
United States in any manner or shape. 

A complete light has been thrown upon the motives 
of the principal actors in the Greytown tragedy, by the 
publication of a letter from Mr. Joseph L. White, a 
leading member of the Accessory Transit Company. It 
appears that the American consular agent at the time 
of the bombardment, Mr. Fabens, and Mr. White, sub- 
sequently quarrelled; hence the publication of part of 
tHe correspondence of the latter, which shows up the 
whole transaction, and completely silences the allega- 
tions made by certain American journals, and the ex- 
cuses of the American President in his message of the 
4th December, 1854. 

" Office of the Nicaraguan Line, 

" New York, June 16, 1854. 

" Captain Hollins, commanding the corvette ' Cyane,' 
leaves on Monday. You will see by his instructions, 
which I have written on the margin, that it is intended 
his authority should not be so exercised as to show any 
mercy to the town or people. 

" If the scoundrels are soundly punished, we can take 
possession, and build it up as a business place, put in 
our own officers, transfer the jurisdiction, and you know 
the rest. 

" It is of the last importance that the people of the 
town should be taught to fear us. Punishment will 
teach them. After which you must agree with them 
as to the organization of a new government, and the 
officers of it. Everything now depends on you and 


Hollins. The latter is all right. He fully understands 
the outrage, and will not hesitate in enforcing repa- 

" I hope to hear from you that all has been properly 


" I am, etc., 

"J. L. White. 

" To Mr. J. W. Fabens, 
" Consular Agent of the U.S. at Greytown." 

The above letter sets the matter in its true light. 
A great and useful project had fallen into the hands 
of unscrupulous speculators, who considered no means 
too vile to compass their greedy ends ; and when their 
crafty efforts to raise the value of their possessions 
failed, they decided on the destruction of Greytown as 
the only obstacle in the way of the realization of their 
wishes. But, in spite of the deep-laid plots and carefully- 
planned schemes of these men, an avenging Providence 
overtook them, and instead of the accomplishment of 
their hopes, they soon found that they had only suc- 
ceeded in putting another nail into the coffin of their 
transit. They did not long enjoy immunity; punish- 
ment was following closely on their heels, and the de- 
struction of the Company soon followed. 

The directors appear to have been emboldened by 
their success at one end of the transit, and determined 
to try their hand at the other extremity. They entirely 
forgot their stipulation to pay a certain percentage to 
the government of the country for the concession which 
had been granted to them ; and when their memory was 
jogged regarding this fact, they declared that they con- 




sidered the republic of Nicaragua sufficiently unsettled 
to justify the non-fulfilment of their engagement. At 
the time this declaration was made Eivas was Presi- 
dent, but he had at his elbow General Walker,* who 
was a man not at all disposed to bear the conduct of 
the directors, fellow-countrymen though they were, so 
patiently as the head of the republic would have done. 
Accordingly, the chairman of the Company at New York 
w r as peremptorily notified, in November, 1855, under 
a clause of the charter, to appoint commissioners to 
settle the matters in controversy with Nicaragua. The 
Company replied, enclosing an opinion of their legal 
adviser, maintaining that the matter had passed from 
their hands. Such an answer was justly deemed an 
evasion; and two clever lawyers, Edmund Randolph and 
A. P. Crittenden, having carefully examined the charter 
of the Company, gave it as their clear and decided opi- 
nion that it had been forfeited. It was not, however, 
until the following August that any decisive action was 
taken ; then the commissioners appointed to investi- 
gate the indebtedness of the Company reported that 
the dues amounted to more than 400,000 dollars. 

* It was not without mature deliberation that Walker took the steps he 
did in the Accessory Transit question. He was disgusted with the con- 
duct of those engaged in the matter. The character of Walker has been 
much misrepresented in this country. He was, in reality, an earnest, 
straightforward man. The following, from one of his letters, depicts the 
principles upon which he acted: — "Without the aid of religious senti- 
ments and religious teachers there can be no good government, for the fear 
of G-od is the foundation of all social and political organization. In God I 
put my trust for the success of the cause in which I am embarked, and for 
the maintenance of the principles I advocate. Without His aid all human 
efforts are unavailing ; but with His divine assistance a few may triumph 
over a legion." 


Some payments had been made, and, deducting all 
these, there still remained a debt of upwards of 350,000 
dollars, — a sum much more than the value of all the 
property on the Isthmus. As the Company failed to 
appear, judgment was given against them by default, 
and all their property seized. In the meantime, Messrs. 
Garrison and Morgan entered into negotiation with the 
Nicaraguan Government for a new charter, which was 
granted directly the old one was forfeited. The work- 
ing of the line was not so much injured by these trans- 
actions as might have been supposed. Messrs. Morgan 
and Garrison became the possessors of all the steamers, 
wharves, stations, etc. etc. belonging to the old Com- 
pany, and continued the conveyance of passengers and 
freight across the Isthmus. The late owners, however, 
true to their combative instincts, determined to fight out 
the matter, and a feud commenced, like the famous one 
between the Hudson's Bay and the North- West Compa- 
nies, although with a very different result — the Transit 
rivals being very much in the condition of the Kilkenny 
cats at the termination of the contest. Mr. Vanderbilt, 
the prime mover in the " Accessory Company," enlisted 
the services of a man named Spencer, who appears 
to have been both clever and daring. He was sent to 
join the Costaricans, then at war with the Nicara- 
guans, led by Colonel Walker ; and very shortly, by 
the energy and dash of himself and Colonel Cauty (an 
Englishman), succeeded, not only in capturing all the 
Transit steamers, but in obtaining possession of every 
one of the important posts on the river. By this means 
the transit once more fell into the power of the " Ac- 


cessory Company," but as a commercial undertaking 
there was an end of it ; and as no attempt was made to 
run the steamers, the line fell to the ground. One 
effect of the breaking-up of the line was the withdrawal 
of Colonel Walker from Nicaragua. He was dependent 
upon the Transit for men and munitions of war ; and 
when the main feeder of his army was thus cut off, he 
had no other course but to succumb. The annihilation 
of the Transit was not the only result of the proceedings 
I have related. The destruction of the navigation of 
the river San Juan may also unquestionably be traced 
to the lawless and violent passions of the leaders in this 
faction fight. Obstructions were placed in the river, in 
the bitterest spirit of hatred and rivalry ; and the laws 
of nature, in the silting process common in this region, 
were thus hastened to their fulfilment. For example, 
a steamer is blown up, sunk, or piles placed in the 
channel ; in an incredibly short space of time detritus 
collects around the wreck or the obstruction, and an 
island appears where formerly the main channel existed. 
Probably there is not a reader but will feel that the 
utter ruin which has fallen upon those connected with 
the " Accessory Transit Company," nee Pacific and At- 
lantic Ship Canal Company, has been richly deserved. 

As regards the surviving steamers of this miserable 
Company, their owners appear to have been true to 
their colours to the last. I saw some of the vessels, and 
was told by those on board that they found it impos- 
sible to get their wages, and therefore held possession 
in the hope of disposing of them, and thus paying them- 
selves. One, the 'Laura Frances,' was sold, and be- 


came a New-Granadian vessel of war. The sum she 
fetched proved just sufficient to remunerate those who 
had navigated and conducted her for so long. An- 
other, the ' Cass Irisarri,' was on the Lake ready for 
use, but there were no bidders : she is probably there 

It is painful to contemplate such a record of fraud 
and violence as I have just given. Here was an enter- 
prise which, if only properly conducted, was calculated 
not only to confer every blessing upon the natives of 
the country through which the line passed, but to prove 
perhaps the most remunerative undertaking of the pre- 
sent day. Yet we find the project swamped in a sea of 
intrigue, falsehood, and dishonesty, and stained with 
the perpetration of a crime unparalleled for atrocity in 
the annals of modern times, — one which would cover 
with shame even uncivilized savages. The San Juan 
Transit route appears now on the point of being played 
out. The shallowness of Grey town harbour, as well as 
the river, seem to offer, unless at a great outlay of money, 
such an obstacle to the reopening of the line, as will 
effectually prevent its reorganization. Nevertheless, the 
well-known wonderful paying qualities of such an under- 
taking have brought various speculators into the field ; 
and a Mr. Stebbins, of New York, obtained the neces- 
sary authority to commence operations. The following 
is a copy of this authorization, and also an extract from 
a letter of President Martinez, showing his sentiments 
regarding a transit through Nicaragua : — 


"Managua, 28th Dec, 1857. 

" Sir, — I have received orders from my government 
to say to you that, having constantly received from the 
company of which you are president, the most vehe- 
ment desire to comply with its engagement to this 
government, and having manifested to Mr. Irissari, 
Minister Plenipotentiary of Managua at the Court of 
Washington, the most lively interest for the fate of this 
country, the Transit shall be opened to the operations 
of the company, although before the prefixed time, as 
soon as the company shall be in a situation to act. 

" This good disposition is the result of a conviction 
that you and your associates have the same interest as 
my government, namely, to impede the piratical expe- 
ditions of filibusters ; and with such powerful interest it 
is not just to the whole world any longer to deprive 
them of the benefits which the route across the Isthmus 
offers. It has been sensibly painful to us to keep it 
closed, and nothing but the obligation of natural pro- 
tection could induce us to close it, — a necessity which 
has disappeared through the co-operation of the said 
company and the asserted policy of your government, 
which has known how to repress the vandalism which 
Walker had banded together. 

"In making you the present manifestation, I have 
the honour to subscribe myself, 

" Your very obedient Servant, 


" To the President of the Company of the Transit, 
" Don H. G. Stebbins, New York." 



Extract from a letter from President Martinez, dated 
31st of December, 1857, written in reply to a congratu- 
latory letter from the president of the company to Mar- 
tinez on his elevation to the Presidency of Nicaragua : — 

"I shall be rejoiced that friendship may be well 
cemented, and that the commerce across this Isthmus, 
far from being interrupted, or from producing us the 
evils they formerly caused us, may be the foundation of 
happiness for this country, and for the company which 
has acquired or has the right of transit. 

"Tomas Martinez. 

"To Mr. H. G. Stebbins, 
" President of the Canal Company, etc., New York." 

Nothing but uncertainty prevails in this quarter, in 
spite of the various announcements of the intentions of 
the company. There is no doubt of the earnest desire 
of the United States to reopen the route in American 
interests, if only to check British trade and enterprise 
in the Pacific ; nevertheless, it is my opinion, backed by 
recent information from the locality, that the San Juan 
River Transit requires too much money to open it perma- 
nently, Of course, it is diplomatically of importance 
to the United States to keep a hold on the country; and 
accordingly, the matter is not allowed to rest. 

" San Juan del Norte, or Grey town, Nicaragua, 
" June 18, 1862. 

" There is once more a chance of the re-establishment 
of the transit from ocean to ocean up this river. An 
influential company has been organized in New York 


to carry out this object, and has obtained a favourable 
charter from the Nicaraguan Government. The com- 
pany has paid to the government the amount stipu- 
lated, and received in return all the property belonging 
to the old Transit Company. The chief engineer, .Mr. 
Walter Campbell, is here, preparing to receive the ves- 
sels (now on the way), with new boats for the river, 
coal, lumber, etc. He has selected a spot on the town 
side of the harbour for the company's depot, and has 
received from the owners of the land deeds of title at 
the nominal value of one dollar. Agents are at work 
repairing the steamer ' Virgin ' on the lake, and the 
short road on the Pacific side, and gangs of men em- 
ployed at different places on the river, cutting wood for 
the steamboats. The chief engineer considers the open- 
ing up or widening and deepening the mouth of the 
harbour an easy matter. 

" There is a strong feeling in California to support an 
opposition line to the Panama ; and it is said that the 
United States Government will give such a one an ac- 
tive support. 

" An English company should join this Central Ame- 
rican Transit Company, and carry the mails and pas- 
sengers for British Columbia, New Zealand, and Aus- 
tralia across this way: their interests need not clash. 
This route, when opened, always beat the Panama line 
in time, and it can be put in thorough order for one- 
tenth what the Panama road has cost. 

" I am glad to state that this country has entirely re- 
covered from the impoverished condition into which it 
was thrown by the filibuster invasion. 

R 2 


"The exports from this port (estimated to be one- 
third of the whole state) in 1861 amounted to 310,306 
dollars, including 83,592 dollars gold from the mines ; 
and the imports of merchandise to 285,798 dollars, and 
in specie, to balance, 24,508 dollars. 

" The exports for the first four months of this year 
have been 112,311 dollars, and the imports to 94,605 
dollars, leaving a balance in favour of the country of 
17,706 dollars. 

"The condition of this town has but slightly changed 
since its surrender to Nicaragua. The governor and 
other officers sent down by the government were wisely 
selected, and, instead of any difficulties being thrown in 
their way by the inhabitants, every disposition has been 
shown to assist them." 

" San Juan del Norte, Nicaragua, July 18, 1862. 

" Last mail I informed you that there was a prospect 
of the re-establishment of the Transit Company here, 
and I have now to add the arrival from New York of 
both men and material. Workshops have been erected, 
lighters built, and a steamboat for the river commenced. 

"The general agent of the line, Mr. Raymond K. 
Weed, is superintending the repairing of the road and 
bridges on the Pacific side ; and the chief engineer, 
Mr. Campbell, has just gone to the lake to put the 
finishing stroke to affairs there. Both these gentlemen 
are indefatigable in their endeavour to get the line open 
by the beginning of October, as, under the contract 
with this government, the company must convey 500 
passengers across this Isthmus during that month. The 


company pays to the government 1 dollar 50 cents, or 
6s., head-money on each adult passenger." 

There is no question that could the transit be opened 
at a moderate outlay, and the integrity of the line 
guaranteed by one or more of the great Powers capable 
of keeping it open in spite of any political disturbance, 
it would prove a great boon to the world, and be most 
remunerative to the projectors. The prevailing idea at 
Greytown is, that if the Colorado branch of the Delta 
could be dammed across, the water would be forced to 
seek a passage to the sea through the San Juan branch, 
and by means of its greatly increased volume, soon scour 
away the obstructions which at present close the navi- 
gation. The following will give an idea of the nature 
of the Delta : — 

" The Colorado diverges from the San Juan in lat. 10° 
50' N.j and after running in a south-westerly direction 
falls into the sea in lat. 10°46'N., forming a dangerous bar. 
This river abstracts from the main stream a considerable 
quantity of water ; the opening from the San Juan being 
1200 feet wide, and having in the deepest part nine feet 
of water at the lowest state of the river. From measure- 
ment of this section, carefully taken at two different pe- 
riods in May, when at the minimum, and in July, when 
much increased with freshets, it appears from calcula- 
tion that at the first period the loss of water from the 
river was 28*178 cubic yards per minute, and at the 
latter observation as much as 85-840 cubic yards. The 
main current being thus suddenly weakened, the motion 
of the water through the San Juan becomes sluggish; and 


the natural effect is, that deposits of sand and mud are 
formed, which gradually augment when the movement 
of the water is feeble. Trunks of trees, and other float- 
ing bodies grounding on these, small islets are formed 
by successive aggregations, which soon become covered 
with rank grass, reeds, and other herbaceous plants of 
rapid growth. A great number of these mounds have 
been thus raised, and the progress of formation is con- 
tinually going on."* 

Meanwhile, every month finds the river shallower and 
shallower, while valuable time has been thrown away 
in trying to organize a grand ship-canal. M. Belly has 
spared no pains in that matter, and has obtained a liberal 
concession from the Government of Nicaragua ; but his 
scheme appears to have fallen to the ground. His 
agreement was to pay 200,000 francs on or before the 
1st of September, 1859, and having failed to do so the 
charter was annulled. Had he contented himself with 
the resuscitation of a transit on the simple and cheap 
form of the late attempt, he might, at the early period 
he commenced, have been in time to keep the San Juan 
navigable ; and there is no doubt the most liberal con- 
cession would have been given to him, and he would 
then have had the satisfaction of reopening the route 
in French interests, — a consummation which, no doubt, 
would have been very agreeable to his Imperial master 
as w T ell as to the natives of the country, who, in com- 
mon with the rest of the world, cannot fail to have 
observed the deservedly high position France has at- 
tained in public opinion under the present regime. 

* Survey of the river San Juan by Mr. Bailey. 


Before closing this chapter, it will be as well to give 
a brief account of San Juan del Sur, the Pacific port of 
the late transit. In England we have but a vague no- 
tion of the place ; indeed, in the search for it made by 
Sir Edward Belcher, it is doubtful if he found it. He 
says: "We quitted our anchorage on the 20th. My 
principal object at this moment was to seek for and 
examine the port of San Juan, which spot I had been 
informed that a Mr. Bailey (employed by the Govern- 
ment of Central America) had selected as the point 
where the projected canal or railroad through Nicaragua 
should communicate with the Pacific. 

" On the 3rd, by dint of perseverance, we reached the 
Bay of Salinas, but had not observed anything like a 
river or port. As we could not fetch Salinas, I beat 
up to a position where we observed a flag displayed, 
rockets fired, and a number of men and women in holi- 
day garb collected; and it being Sunday, we anchored 
for the day. The surf was too heavy to attempt land- 
ing ; therefore we could neither fix our position satisfac- 
torily, nor obtain information about San Juan, although 
I strongly suspected this to be the spot. Every nook 
was narrowly examined, but without success ; therefore 
I am satisfied that Sunday's position, before noticed, 
was the port in question. 1 '* 

M. T. de Lapelin, capitaine de fregate in the French 
corvette ' Brillant,' was more successful. The following 
is a translation of the pith of his observations:! — 

* Belcher's ' Voyage Kound the World,' vol. i.pp. 179-182. 
t ' Reconnaissance Hydrograpkique des Cotes Occidentales du Centre- 
Amerique,' pp. 50-54. Paris, 1854. 


"Approaching San Juan del Sur, the coast rises a 
little, and the hilly ridges of the land lose the uni- 
formity which distinguishes them towards the north, 
becoming serrated in the direction of Salinas Bay. The 
hills are thickly wooded, and descend almost perpen- 
dicularly to the water's edge; the cliffy projections jutting 
into the sea, and forming between their points numerous 
small indentations or bays. 

"The entire coast is steep, too, and it is only close to 
the shore that bottom is obtained in twelve to fifteen 

" It is difficult to make out San Juan del Sur from 
the similarity in the configuration of the coast ; but 
when the weather is clear, the bearings of Momobacho, 
Ometepe, or Orosi will prove an unfailing guide. 

" The American agent's house at San Juan del Sur is 
in lat. 11° 15' N., long. 86° Y W. The prevailing winds 
are from the N.E., or right off the land, and commonly 
attain considerable force, sometimes suddenly changing 
to east, or N.N.W. During the winter the west and 
south-west winds sometimes blow with violence. The 
anchorage outside the port is in eight to ten fathoms, 
sand and broken shells, at about half a mile from the 

" The port itself is open to seaward, and, except with 
winds from that quarter, the landing is good ; but in all 
weathers the points afford sufficient shelter for small 
vessels. " 


In the following chapter will be found some account 
of my journey up the river San Juan, across the Lake 
of Nicaragua to Granada, and thence to Managua, from 
which it is hoped the reader will glean some idea of the 
interior of Nicaragua, and especially its water commu- 







Monday, January 16th, 1860. — At 1 o'clock in the morn- 
ing, I was np and stirring ; mosquitoes abundant. At 2 
the Carib canoemen were down at the house (Gorgon 
Villa); and my friends Sewell, Otter, and Devereux 
went with me on board the 'Laura Frances.' We 
found that the fires had been lit soon after midnight, 
but it was half-past seven before the stokers could 
raise sufficient steam to leave Greytown Harbour. The 
6 Laura Frances' is an American river-boat, of about one 
hundred tons, and seventy-five-horse power; she draws 
three feet, and will steam six knots. She belonged to 
the American Atlantic and Pacific Ship Canal Company, 
but was at present held for their wages by her crew, 
viz. Mr. Dickson, clerk or supercargo ; Mr. G. F. Hol- 
ton, captain; Mr. Carman, mate and pilot, and two 
deck hands. The engineers and two stokers were hired 
for the occasion. When the company was in full opera- 


tion, the wages of the above were nearly as follows : — 
Captain, seven dollars per day ; mate, two dollars and a 
half per day ; clerk, fonr dollars and a half per clay ; en- 
gineer, four dollars per day ; head fireman, one dollar and 
a half per day ; second fireman, one dollar per day ; two 
deck hands, one dollar each; cost of coals per diem, about 
twenty dollars ; wear and tear, seven dollars and a half 
per day ; total cost per day, fifty dollars. The ' Laura 
Frances' cost 13,000 dollars, and sold for about 5000 

My arrangement with the owners of the 'Laura 
Frances' was as follows : — She was to take my canoe and 
party across the bar of the Colorado, — the San Juan 
branch being too shallow to ascend, — and up the river 
as far as the Machuca rapid ; for which service I agreed 
to pay 100 dollars, and supply the boat with five tons of 
coals. After that I should have to make the best of 
my way in the canoe, which was 25 feet long by 3 feet 
9 inches wide, and which, it was said, would attain great 
speed when propelled by our sturdy Caribs, Isaac 
Perry, Joseph Simon, John Peter, Joseph Manuel, Csesar 
Brown, and Robert Pike. 

On leaving the harbour we experienced the usual 
Greytown swell, which almost brought the little river- 
boat to a standstill, and it was two hours before we 
rounded the point and shut in the Gorgon and Sabine. 
The coast is low and monotonous. There are a few shan- 
ties between Punta Arenas and the Colorado. 1 re- 
marked that the swell decreased considerably as we 
neared the river. At half-past eleven we crossed the 
bar through a nasty surf, least water seven feet ; but, 


with the exception of a little damage from one sea, 
which struck us fair on the port quarter, and poured in 
a huge wave across the deck, we escaped scatheless. 
The bar is in the shape of a semicircle, which is the case 
with all the bars which I have seen off the mouths of 
rivers in Central America. Before crossing we had a 
good view of Tortuga, a hill which shows like an island, 
and is a most useful mark for this part of the coast, the 
sight of it at once convincing the navigator that he 
is to leeward of Greytown. The entrance to the Colo- 
rado is two hundred feet in width, and as much as five 
fathoms in depth inside the bar. The banks of the 
river are low, and covered with a dense jungle, abound- 
ing with reptiles. At 2.15, about ten miles from the 
mouth, we came to a shoal stretching right across the 
river, having from four to six feet over it. This was the 
shallowest water we had yet passed, never having found 
less than ten feet before: great quantities of grass 
grow in the river, the blades being in many places 
seven or eight feet in height. From 2.30 to 4.30 we 
encountered many difficulties from shoal water, but by 
the latter time we were clear of it, when at a distance 
of five miles from the apex of the Delta ; up to this 
point the river makes several sharp turns and has a 
strong current. At 5.30 we passed the hut of one of 
the most daring of the filibusters, named Moore, but he 
now follows the peaceful occupation of shingling. After 
leaving this hut behind us the apex of the Delta appears 
in sight, with Leaf Island off its point, and one or two 
small islands between. The distance is eighteen miles 
to the mouth of the Colorado, and sixteen to Greytown. 


Both point and island are cleared and cultivated, al- 
though a great portion of the latter has been lately 
washed away by the rising of the river (December, 
1859); at which period Mr. Leaf's house and much 
property was destroyed. 

A rise of the river in December is most unusual, 
October being the month for floods. Between January 
and May it is at the lowest ; for instance, the ' Laura 
Frances' got on shore on the Machuca rapids on the 
27th of January last year, and remained there until the 
following 8th of July. 

At 6 o'clock we reached Leaf's Island, about a mile 
beyond the apex, passing houses on each bank ; but half 
an hour later, about three miles above Colorado, the 
4 Laura Frances ' got aground, and remained fixed all 
night close to the left bank ; the river quite shallow 
right across. During the day little was seen worth re- 
marking ; the land was everywhere low, flat, and mono- 
tonous ; the right bank was the highest, but for miles 
no banks at all could be discerned, the water being 
bounded by swamps, covered with the most luxuriant 
grass of the same nature as lower down, the feeding- 
ground of the manati. We did not however see any of 
those animals, and only a few alligators, cranes, macaws, 
parrots, and iguanas. Thus ended our first day ; as re- 
gards distance, we afterwards found we could have done 
more by paddling in the canoe. The grounding of the 
4 Laura Frances ' gave me more time and opportunity 
for examining the apex of the Delta, with a view to 
forming an opinion as to the practicability of damming 
the Colorado, and by that means forcing the water, which 


now uselessly escapes to the sea, into the San Juan 
branch to act as a scour. I cannot say that I found 
much encouragement in the prospect before me ; the 
surrounding land is very low, and is so loose and friable, 
as to be almost of the nature of a quagmire, and there- 
fore easily displaced by a more than ordinary rush of 
water ; indeed, during the freshets, the outline of the 
river-banks is repeatedly altered, even the large island 
guarding the apex does not escape ; and there is no 
doubt that the whole of it will disappear in time, and 
the debris lend a helping hand to silt up the San Juan. 
Every sign seems to be in favour of that arm becoming 
at no distant period a mere driblet, while the Colorado 
will increase in volume, and become the main stream of 
the river. Considering therefore the unstable quality of 
the ground, the great size and immense solidity of such 
a dam as would be required, and the swampy nature of 
the country through which the water would have to be 
forced,— the San Juan branch, be it remembered, being 
anything but straight; on the contrary, winding and 
curving sharply in its course ; I am of opinion that, even 
supposing the dam could be constructed, the stream, in- 
stead of scouring, would simply spread over the swampy 
Delta, and ultimately divide itself into a hundred little 
rivulets. The cost of these river operations would be 

At 7 a.m. (after sticking on the sandbar tw T elve hours) 
we managed to pick our way into deeper water, and about 
an hour afterwards reached the San Juanillo, — an insigni- 
ficant stream, which, after leaving the river, takes a small 
curve and empties itself into the San Juan branch a few 

z ^ 



£3 <# \'~ 




miles above Greytown. It is very narrow and very shal- 
low, and the entrance is almost hidden by a small island. 
About a quarter of a mile above it the river takes a 
bend (vide plan), and it is proposed to cut a canal from 
the bight of this bend through the intervening land to 
the San Juanillo. This idea seemed to be more feasible 
than the damming proposition ; that is to say, it might be 
done for very much less money ; and as the course of the 
San Juanillo is more direct than that of the San Juan, 
the water might be kept within bounds by the aid of 
a few groups of piles driven judiciously at prominent 
points : however, a careful survey of the stream must be 
made before a decisive opinion can be given, and this I 
had not time to effect either going or returning. The 
distance by the San Juanillo to Greytown would be 
about eighteen miles. Here I observed the first appear- 
ance of rock, in the shape of a few boulders on the 

Abreast of the San Juanillo is a very nice little plan- 
tation, belonging to a Mr. Wolf; this is the usual resting- 
place for a smart canoe at the termination of the first 
day from Greytown. The house is one of the best on 
the river ; the clearance is about five acres, and, like all 
the rest, only planted with vegetables and fruits, for 
which a ready sale was always obtained during the 
halcyon days of the Transit. The river in this vicinity 
is dotted with islands, but the banks continue low, 
nowhere more than ten feet above the water. At 9, ar- 
rived at the widest part of the river, which is here from 
three to four hundred yards across, with rocks right over, 
having from four to five feet upon them. This is the first 


cropping out we have seen, nothing hitherto but mud, 
if a few loose stones at the bend above the Juanillo be 
excepted. At about 10 passed the wreck of a transit 
steamer, called the Wheeler ; she is the first of a series 
of wrecks, extending as far as the Toro rapids. At this 
place we overtook the canoe carrying the Costarica 
mail ; all the crew were quite naked, poling their boat 
along by main force against the current. At 10.30 ar- 
rived at the mouth of the Serepiqui, about a hundred 
and fifty yards wide, and very shallow ; about a mile 
below we passed close to the position carried by Captain 
Lock, R.N., in 1848. The battery has quite disappeared, 
overgrown in fact by the jungle ; only a few stones and a 
rusty old gun, visible at low river, mark the place. 

It was at the mouth of the Serepiqui that the Cos- 
taricans, led by English and American officers, inflicted 
so disastrous a defeat upon the filibusters, in December, 
1856. The clearance which they had occupied and 
partially stockaded was not yet overgrown with under- 
wood, and the remains of the camp were still visible. 
Walker's object in posting these men (about sixty) at 
the mouth of the river was to check any attempt on the 
part of the Costaricans to seize the Transit vessels, and 
thus cut off his supplies of men and munitions ; and no 
doubt, if those entrusted with this important post had 
performed their duty effectually, Walker might, in all 
human probability, still have been President of Nicara- 
gua. The manner in which the post was taken deserves 
relating : it was due entirely to the infusion of English 
and American intelligence into the counsels of the Costa- 
ricans, who, at that time, were doing their utmost to expel 


Walker from Nicaragua, from the fear that his example 
might induce some enterprising American to try his 
hand upon their State. The originator of the plan for 
the capture of the garrison at the Serepiqui and the ul- 
timate seizure of the river steamers was Mr. George F. 
Cauty. At first no attention was paid to his suggestions, 
but upon the arrival of an agent of Mr. Vanderbilt, 
a Mr. Spencer, the project was adopted. It was decided 
to avoid the Serepiqui altogether, and to cut a path 
through the woods to the San Carlos, descend that river, 
and thus take the garrison from the rear. This was ac- 
cordingly done ; a working party was advanced through 
the woods before the main body, and when it arrived 
at the San Carlos, rough boats were hurriedly dug out 
from single trees for the transport of the soldiers. The 
Costarican Government gave Mr. Cauty a commission 
as captain, and that gentleman appears to have been 
the life and soul of the party; he had been a sailor, 
and his nautical knowledge must have stood him in 
good stead in the construction of craft to convey the men 
down the river. On the 2nd of December, 1856, 250 
men, under Colonel Bareillet, a French officer, and Co- 
lonel Blanco, a native, started across the mountains, and 
on the 7th reached the San Carlos; on the 12th they 
embarked on board five dug-outs and three rafts con- 
structed by Captain Cauty, and on the 17th reached the 
confluence of the San Carlos and San Juan with only 
one day's provisions remaining. Here the party nearly 
came to grief, from the quarrels of the leaders as to who 
was commander-in-chief; this was settled by Cauty, who 
decided that Spencer, the American, was to be the chief. 



Accordingly that worthy started with half the force on 
the 13th, on the evening of which day he arrived in 
rear of the doomed camp ; here they were obliged to lie 
hidden for the night, the rain descending in torrents. 
Next morning at daylight a rush was made on the garri- 
son, which, being quite off its guard, was of course over- 
powered in no time. The commander of the filibusters 
fought well and received many wounds, but it was of 
no avail ; the surprise was complete, a number of men 
being in the water bathing at the time of the attack. 
All the garrison were killed except twelve, two of whom 
were made prisoners ; the remainder swam across the 
stream and escaped. This success was vigorously fol- 
lowed up, the expedition proceeding down stream to 
Greytown, where it obtained possession of all the river- 
boats which happened to be in the port, four in number, 
without firing a shot, thus virtually sealing Walker's 

It requires local knowledge to appreciate the bravery 
and dash of this brilliant little campaign. First cut- 
ting through the primaeval forest between thirty and 
forty miles, over swamps, cactus, and other tropical im- 
pediments, then felling trees and shaping them into 
canoes, and lashing others together for rafts with the 
long tendrils of the wild vine, and finally embarking 
125 men, with arms, provisions, etc., upon such frail 
contrivances, to float down a rapid and comparatively 
unknown stream, and attack a daring enemy, — is no 
common action, and deserved well of the country. 

But to resume my narrative. At 11.45, passed the 
narrowest part of the river, not fifty yards across, about 


seven miles from the Serepiqui; at this part of the 
river there are no plantations, and only a hut here and 
there, used by the gatherers of sarsaparilla. We ob- 
served a canoe full of Grey town negroes, busy fishing ; 
on their road home these fellows steal all the plantains 
they can get, from the plantations lower down ; a ready 
market, and no questions asked, awaiting them at Grey- 
town. Heavy tropical showers and a broiling sun al- 
ternated during the day ; but a capital pilot-house on 
deck afforded first-rate shelter from both. Passed the 
' Nicaraguan' mail canoe ; the natives, stark naked, po- 
ling their boat against the current; they were streaming 
with perspiration, and are alternately washed by heavy 
rain and then baked by the sun, for days together, — 
a dog's life, I should think; nevertheless they seem 
actually to thrive on it. At 2 p.m. passed the Moreno 
Grande, or great whirlpool, which whirls with consi- 
derable force, and at high river is very dangerous; we 
go through it with a good head of steam, without much 
difficulty. This whirlpool is about thirteen miles from 
the Serepiqui ; here the banks are a little higher, and 
a red clay takes the place of the mud lower down, and 
besides appears partially stratified and more indurated ; 
indeed two or three cliffy projections in this vicinity 
give quite a picturesque appearance to the otherwise 
same scenery of the river. From this position the hill 
of San Carlos can be seen ; it is one of the prominent 
river-marks, and valuable as such to the navigator. The 
banks even here, although much higher than lower down, 
are flooded at high river, as the driftwood sufficiently 
proves. A little after 5 p.m. passed San Carlos Island, 

S 2 


which is opposite the mouth of the river of that name ; 
its width is about two hundred yards, and its current 
quite two knots an hour. It was here that a curious 
disaster befell the Costarican force sent down to reinforce 
the vanguard, which had operated so successfully against 
the Serepiqui garrison, as narrated above. It appears 
that the troops, numbering about 400, were descend- 
ing the San Carlos on rafts and dug-outs similar to 
those constructed by Captain Cauty, when one of the 
captured steamers sent by their friends to assist hove 
in sight, paddling and puffing up stream : this sight, 
so strange, indeed supernatural, to the ignorant Costari- 
cans, caused quite a panic amongst them; a number 
in their fright jumped overboard, and in endeavouring 
to reach the shore were drowned. From San Carlos 
island, the river winds almost in semicircles, for two or 
three miles. When dark, we still pursued our way, 
and steered between the shadows of the trees, in the 
middle of the stream. The current was very strong off 
Companion Island, but the ' Laura Frances ' went over it 
well, and reached Mr. Emmons's plantation at the foot 
of the Machuca rapids at 8.30, where the steamer was 
secured for the night, and her part of the contract ful- 
filled. We went to bed early, after paying the hundred 
dollars to Mr. Dickson, and fortunately slept well, — as 
we had plenty of work before us. From Leaf's Island 
to Machuca usually occupies two days in a canoe ; we 
have therefore gained one day in time, and avoided 
considerable exposure, by employing the steamer. 

The following is an itinerary of the distances from 
point to point on the river, between Greytown and the 
Machuca rapids : — 



From Greytown to the mouth of the San Juanillo . . 2*310 
Mouth of the San Juanillo to the divergence of the Toro 1*690 
From divergence of the Toro to the Colorado .... 11/530 

From Greytown to Colorado 15*530 

Colorado to the sea 18*000 

From the Colorado to the San Juanillo 5*494 

From San Juanillo to the Serepiqui 8*036 

From Serepiqui to San Carlos Island 25*040 

From San Carlos to Machuca rapids 17*499 

From Colorado to Machuca 56069 

Wednesday, January 18th. — This morning we were up 
and away the first thing, leaving the 4 Laura Frances r 
before 6. It took us thirty-seven minutes to get over 
the Machuca rapid, paddling in the deep water, and 
poling in the shallow ; the bottom was rocky, with not 
more than a depth of 2^ feet right across. The rapid 
is marked by the wreck of a river steamer, named the 
' Oras,' around which a quantity of trees and debris have 
collected, now almost covered with vegetation, and 
which will soon become a permanent island — not im- 
proving, by any means, the navigation of the channel. 
A quarter of a mile ahead of the ' Oras ' lies the wreck 
of the ' Catalina Maria,' also doing its part to obstruct 
the river. 

The strongest current over the Machuca rapids is 
about seven knots an hour, and is called by the natives 
Infiernito (small hell). The average rate is between 
four and five knots per hour. A road has been cut on 
the river's bank for passengers to walk round, but it is 
now nearly destroyed, for the most part by the crews 
of the bongos, who have wantonly cut up the bridges 


for firewood, when any amount of fuel might have been 
picked up all around. 

At 6.45 passed Machuca Island, and about 8 came 
to the foot of Las Balas, and in little more than half an 
hour got through, impelled by ten sturdy paddles, for 
we all worked with a will. By 10 we had left the 
Mico rapid behind, and made fast to the bushes for 
half an hour, to eat our breakfast, which consisted of 
biscuit and cheese, washed down by sherry and water. 
Our stopping-place was at the mouth of a creek called 
San Bartolomeo. Soon after leaving, we passed an- 
other wreck, ' Henry Bulwer.' I should think it would 
be worth while to collect the machinery of the various 
vessels left here to rot. 

At 10.15 rounded Punta Gorda, where the current 
runs very strongly, and then sighted Castillo Viejo, 
which is a very conspicuous landmark, and perhaps the 
most important position on the river. There are two 
rounded conical hills, on the right bank, commanding 
the rapid, and upon the one nearest the water the old 
castle, captured by Nelson, is a prominent object. 

Unfortunately for the defenders, the hill behind com- 
mands the one on which the fort is situated, and this was 
taken advantage of by Lord Nelson, who battered and 
ultimately captured the fort from that vantage-ground ; 
it is called Nelson's Hill to the present day. This is 
not the fortification described by our great naval hero 
as having been taken by boarding. At 1 1 we landed at 
the foot of the rapid, while some soldiers, guiltless of 
any outward sign of their profession, dragged the canoe 
through the rushing water, and secured her safely in the 


placid river above, which is here 200 yards in breadth. 
The rapid extends right across the river; it has a fall 
of five feet, and runs about eight knots an hour. In 
the meantime on shore I made the acquaintance of the 
commandant, Colonel Manuel Arguello, a quondam fili- 
buster, who, having quarrelled with Walker, made his 
peace with his countrymen, and now holds office under 
the native Government. The Colonel, who was lame from 
a bullet in his leg, was very civil to us, and gave us a 
couple of fish at parting, for which I pressed upon his 
acceptance a bottle of rum. At this place the transit 
passengers disembarked, and were transferred to another 
steamer above. A very cheap light tramway was used 
in the intervening space between the landing piers, by 
means of which the travellers and their luggage were 
quickly conveyed from one vessel to the other. 

Castillo cannot properly be called a rapid, as there is 
a decided fall of some feet, causing the water to boil and 
tumble in a dangerous manner at its foot, so much so 
indeed, that a canoe would be instantly swamped if she 
got into it ; in fact we had to cross from Point Gorda, 
some distance lower down, with every care and precau- 

From Castillo to the foot of the Toro the scenery 
maintained the same monotonous character, becoming 
low, and overgrown with grass, just as it was about the 
delta. Toro proved the largest rapid and was the most 
trying part of the day's work, although the stream upon 
it did not exceed four knots ; but by a little after 4 the 
canoe was above it, and in the Agua Muerte, or dead 
water, viz. with a current of only one knot against us. 


Here we stopped for a few minutes while the Caribs cut 
some light spars for a mast and sprit, so that we could 
make sail across the lake. It is a wonder that the 
Spaniards did not select this rapid for the site of their 
fort, because, in a strategical point of view, it is far su- 
perior to any place below; for instance, the rapid is 
straight for several hundred yards, consequently a well- 
directed fire would destroy the attacking force long be- 
fore they could return a shot. At the head of the rapid 
the Savolo river empties itself, and at its mouth a 
family of Indians are living, consisting of two women 
and two men. One of the latter boarded us, and vo- 
lunteered the information that he was the lieutenant of 
the tribe and his brother the king: he was a powerful 
man, and very fond of grog. We saw the family man- 
sion as we passed, but had not time to inspect it. The 
wreck of a steamer, called the ' Central America,' close 
to, was perhaps the cause of the location. At 4.30 
stopped at a deserted house, and made a capital dinner 
on the fish given us at Castillo, and some coffee after- 
wards. The rest quite set us all up ; and as mosquitoes 
were plentiful, I determined to push on all night to 
reach Fort San Carlos, on the lake, twenty-seven miles 
off. Just at sunset we passed another wreck, the ' Ma- 
tapa.' During the whole night (there was no moon, 
and it was very dark) the men worked splendidly at 
the paddles ; it was impossible to sleep, so we four took 
watch and watch, one looking out, another steering ; 
and thus the dreary night passed on, occasional showers 
wetting us to the skin. Steering was much preferred 
to looking out, for the banks were so low that the canoe 


often ran into the long grass before the look-out could 
give warning; and I can bear witness to the aching 
pain in the eyes occasioned by peering into the dark- 
ness hour after hour. So painful was this watching, 
and the constrained position in which we were obliged 
to sit, that it is probable we should have made fast to 
the bank had there been one ; but thrusting the canoe 
as far as possible into the long grass we could find no 
footing, and therefore landing was out of the question. 

Thursday r , January 19th, 1860. — At 3 this morning 
we were close to the fort, but the Caribs objected to go- 
ing there while it continued dark, because the valiant 
commandant had a playful habit of firing at boats 
approaching without giving them any warning; and 
having already succeeded in killing a few innocents, 
our men preferred sitting patiently on their thwarts, 
in the pouring rain, and waiting for daylight. The 
canoe was pushed well into the grass, and we were 
prevented moping over our wet and cold plight by the 
vigorous attacks of thousands of mosquitoes, which 
made our faces, hands, and feet like plum-puddings, 
long before daylight enabled us to push boldly across 
to the fort. Here we found the current was certainly 
not more than a knot an hour. Fort San Carlos is the 
place described by Nelson in a sketch of his life written 
by himself for Dr. M 6 Arthur in 1799. He says: 
" In January, 1780, an expedition being resolved upon 
against San Carlos, I was chosen to direct the sea part 
of it. Major Poison, who commanded, will tell you of 
my exertions : how I quitted my ship ; carried troops 
in boats a hundred miles up a river which none but 


Spaniards, since the times of the buccaneers, had ever 
ascended. It will then be told how I boarded, if I may 
be allowed the expression, an outpost of the enemy, 
situated on an island in the river ; that I made batte- 
ries, and afterwards fought them ; and was a principal 
cause of our success." 

The fort is situated on the left bank of the river, at 
the point where it escapes from the Lake ; the land is 
low all round, and cleared to the extent of perhaps 
2000 yards. The island that Nelson describes as having 
boarded is not in the vicinity of San Carlos, as many 
suppose; it is just below Castillo Viejo, and merely 
an outpost of that fortification. The old fort built by 
the Spaniards is in ruins, and overshadowed by the 
luxuriant vegetation. There are three guns mounted 
and ready for service ; but the place could offer no re- 
sistance to men-of-war boats well manned and armed. 
It is a dirty, sickly hole, with dirty inhabitants, and 
everything dirty about it ; doubtless, in the hands of 
the Spaniards it was different, as the remains of paved 
streets and ruined houses testify. I ought to men- 
tion that this fort also fell into the hands of the Costa- 
ricans, and principally through Captain Cauty, who was 
made colonel for his services on the occasion. It ap- 
pears that after securing the steamers and the fortified 
positions on the river, it was determined to add San 
Carlos to the conquests ; and accordingly, a party of 
picked men was placed on board the ' Virgen ' Lake 
steamer, one of the prizes, which, with the usual Tran- 
sit signal flying, steamed as close to the fort as her 
draught would allow. The garrison had not the least 


idea that she contained enemies ; and Captain Grader, 
the commandant, according to his wont, came on board 
to see what he could pick up. He was at once secured ; 
and being convinced that Captain Cauty and a body of 
men were in the rear of the fort, having forced their 
way through the swampy thickets during the night, he 
determined to surrender, and accordingly did so with- 
out firing a shot. 

Here we were asked for our passports by a ragged 
sentry, and a show made of searching the canoe ; but I 
objected strenuously to this proceeding, and it was not 
persisted in. At that early hour the commandant was 
asleep, but I marched off to his house, woke him up, 
and having gone through the form of calling on him, 
and presenting a note of introduction in lieu of a pass- 
port, I lost no time in clearing out of the filthy place, 
and pulling on board the 'Cass Irissari,' a Lake steamer, 
belonging to the late company, and at present held by 
the captain and engineer in payment of their wages. 
The captain's name was Slocum, and the engineer's 
was Place ; the latter was at Granada, but the former 
received us very civilly, and gave us free permission 
to use his cook-house to prepare our breakfast, etc. 
Our right-hand man, Perry, during my interview with 
the commandant, managed to replenish our nearly ex- 
hausted larder ; but he reported that provisions of any 
sort were exorbitantly dear. While the breakfast was 
getting ready under the guidance of the aforesaid 
Perry, we poured the waters of Lake Nicaragua over 
each other, and were much refreshed thereby. After a 
good breakfast of eggs and milk, — the former twopence 


halfpenny each, the latter one shilling per bottle, — we 
once more embarked in the canoe, and made sail, to voy- 
age from one end to the other of the Lake, a distance 
of ninety miles. The water is shallow off San Carlos ; 
indeed, in the dry season, six feet is about the deepest 
obtained. By steering direct for the island of Solen- 
tinane (800 feet high) the best water is found. I was 
disappointed in getting a good view of the scenery, 
owing to thick weather ; lofty islands dotting the sides 
and centre of the Lake could, it is true, be discerned, 
but they had a ghost-like appearance through the mist, 
and did not present any striking or remarkable fea- 
ture; the peaks of Madera and Ometepec were just 
visible. Ometepec is thickly inhabited, and is the only 
island on which there is a volcano ; it is 5050 feet high, 
and Madera 4190. It is a very curious circumstance, 
that throughout America, and pretty generally in other 
parts of the world, the vicinity of volcanoes is chosen 
for settlement, and moreover is thickly inhabited. 
Ometepec and Madera are joined together by a narrow 
isthmus, densely covered with wood; a great deal of 
produce is raised here. The water of the Lake, instead 
of being clear as crystal, was a dirty yellowish-green, 
with lots of sharks and alligators cruising about: sailors 
surely ought to be free from their bitterest enemy 
when in fresh water. The wind was light and puffy, 
which made the canoe very uncomfortable, for in this 
species of craft it is necessary to be always on the qui 
vive to keep her balanced ; so the body is in perpetual 
motion, seesawing backwards and forwards. At 1.30 
passed Bagueta. The coast was low and swampy at 


first starting, but as we drew away from San Carlos it 
began to rise, and as far as the eye could reach it 
seemed to undulate towards the interior, while the 
dense forests gave way to savana, here and there dotted 
with trees, giving quite a park-like appearance to the 
scene. At 2 o'clock arrived at San Miguelito, the 
Lake terminus of my proposed temporary line. It is 
simply a collection of substantial huts (some of them 
with an upper story) perched upon some rising ground, 
with savana land stretching away inland as far as the 
eye can reach, — a most beautiful scene. 

The country in the vicinity is favourable for a road. 
It is slightly undulating, and without any impediment 
in the shape of hills worth speaking about. The depth 
of water in the bay is amply sufficient for the near ap- 
proach of Lake steamers ; in short, the place seems well 
adapted for the Lake terminus of the railroad. Every- 
thing was very dear, and, there being little inducement 
to stop, we once more sailed, after buying a couple of 
fowls and some oranges. I had been armed with a letter 
of introduction for Sefior Montenegro, the alcalde of the 
place, but he was away. The Spanish American natives 
always imagine that every white man, and especially 
every Englishman, must be a doctor ; I was therefore 
much bothered for medicine ; but as that commodity 
was scarce, I contented myself with ministering to one 
old woman, who was very ill. I obtained a few sound- 
ings, both going into and running out of the bay, with 
a marked fishing-line and an American bootjack (iron) 
tied to the end of it for a sinker. There was nine feet 
close to the beach. At 3 o'clock the canoe was well 


away from San Miguelito ; and as the breeze had fresh- 
ened, we went along at a spanking pace, or to use the 
Carib expression, " she ripped," and soon wetted us 
through. In half an hour Pedronal* was passed, the 
next inhabited place to San Miguelito ; it consisted of 
three huts, and is merely a cattle rancho. The scenery 
of the savana land is an agreeable change after the 
monotonous river-banks. At this part of the Lake 
the beach is low, but not swampy, with no sign of 
mountains. The land rises to one or two hundred feet, 
covered with grass. I saw a few cocoa-nuts, — a tree 
which seldom thrives inland, or even out of sight of its 
beloved sea. 

As we sailed along, the weather became more and 
more squally, and the canoe shipped a good deal of 
water, which we had to bale out as fast as possible. 
Passed some solitary huts, and at 6 o'clock stopped at 
one, called Cocito, which may be known by its being 
opposite to the islands of San Bernardo and San Ber- 
nadito, in line ; the former is 347 feet in height. The 
bay in which we landed was small and sandy, and Perry 
soon had a large fire alight and dinner preparing, after 
w T hich we tried to sleep, but sand-flies, mosquitoes, occa- 
sional rain, and the dread of alligators, which are both 
numerous and audacious, kept most of us awake. At a 
little after midnight we paddled out into the breeze, and 
hoisting sail made good progress. At Cocito prices are 
more reasonable ; fivepence for a fowl, for instance. The 
rancho was filthy, and barely sheltered the inhabitants 
from the weather; vermin of all sorts rioted in undis- 

* In this locality gold lias lately been discovered. 


turbed enjoyment. An amiable young herdsman was 
paying his addresses to one of the young lady inmates. 
Our appearance, and almost forcible entry into the 
place, did not appear to disconcert the pair, who were 
speechless with happiness, rolling their great black eyes 
about in the most approved manner. 

Friday, Jan. 20th, 1860. — At daylight this morning we 
found ourselves off the Chontales Islands, and observed 
a change in the scenery, the land rising and swelling 
into hills and mountains towards the northward. The 
magnificent mountain of Alto Grande was right ahead. 
It is 3149 feet in height, and is an excellent mark for 
the voyager. Every one in the canoe was wet through. 
Passed the landing-place at the commencement of the 
road leading to the mines of Chontales, and also saw 
the mouths of three small rivers. The whole of this 
fertile coast is quite uninhabited, not even a hut to be 
seen ; it is one vast natural pasturage and meadow-land. 

At 9.30 a.m. came in sight of the three Cays, where 
the bongos and canoes keep away for Granada, which 
is on the opposite side of the Lake. At noon we ar- 
rived, and disembarked to stretch our limbs and dis- 
cuss some biscuit, cheese, and wine for breakfast, after 
which we pushed out boldly into the Lake under sail, 
steering straight for the hill of Granada, 4480 feet. 
When fairly away from the lee of the islands we caught 
it, and for five weary hours went through a course of 
fresh-water navigation such as I trust I may never see 
again. To use the Carib expression, it was one con- 
stant " rip," the canoe tearing through the water, 
scooping such quantities inboard that we were obliged 


to bale without intermission. Any awkwardness would 
have been fatal : we had to sit with the immovable firm- 
ness of a North American Indian, and try to imitate 
his stoical indifference ; but it was a hard trial, for we 
all felt it was a matter of touch and go. Had the canoe 
filled and capsized, not even the admirable Carib canoe- 
men could have righted her with such waves running, 
and then the sharks would very speedily have made 
short work with us. It is surprising how soon the 
waves rise on fresh water ; a very little wind makes the 
water ripple violently in a few minutes, and the strong 
breeze we experienced caused a high, irregular, topping 
wave, far worse than would have been met with on the 
ocean. I can only say that I shall never despise a fresh- 
water sailor again. At 5 we ran the canoe through a 
bad surf on the beach, close to the old fort at Granada, 
and of course she instantly swamped. This was no more 
than might have been expected ; but in addition to 
having all our things wet through, we were much pro- 
voked by a number of natives standing on the beach, 
who, instead of assisting us, stood by and laughed, for 
which I anathematized them in my very best Spanish. 
After some hard work we got the canoe up the beach, 
and the luggage placed in safety, fortunately without 
any loss in the surf. We then had to walk about half a 
mile inland to the city of Granada, or rather that part of 
it where the only hotel is situated ; here, in less than 
half an hour we found ourselves and our wet traps fairly 
installed, with the prospect of a dinner, night's rest, 
and dry clothes. At this hotel I had the pleasure of 
becoming acquainted with Colonel Cauty. The dinner 


and night's rest came in good time ; and although nei- 
ther viands nor accommodation was anything to boast of, 
yet we were only too thankful after our late hardships 
and imminent danger to get what we could. I do not 
suppose that any one of my party will, to the day of his 
death, forget his first cruise on fresh water ; and had 
my friends not been the best of good fellows, physically 
and mentally, 1 do not believe they could have stood it. 
We had been five days on the journey of 230 miles, 
of which three days and nights at least were spent in 
hard labour, constant anxiety and watchfulness, with 
little or no sleep, meals taken anyhow, without shelter of 
any sort, and therefore alternately wetted to the skin 
and broiled by the sun. As to the Caribs, they were 
used to it, but their performance deserves record. They 
paddled without intermission for nearly eleven hours, 
during which the canoe was propelled over all the ra- 
pids, viz. : — 


From Machuca to Las Balas rapids 3*056 

From Las Balas to Mico rapids 2*256 

From Mico to Castillo Viejo rapids 5 '702 

From Castillo Viejo to Toro rapids 9 '469 

Total length of rapids . 20*483 

After which, with only a rest of two hours to cook our 
food, these men resumed their paddles, and completed 
the remainder of the journey to Fort San Carlos, reach- 
ing there before daylight next morning. 


From Toro rapid to Fort San Carlos 27*228 

From Machuca to Fort San Carlos — total distance 

paddled in twenty hours 47*711 

Who will say that they were afraid of work, when they 



keep up continuous labour, requiring very great mus- 
cular exertion, for the space of twenty-two hours, with 
the intermission of only two hours for cooking and eat- 
ing, and when during that time they covered a space 
of forty-seven miles of river against an average current 
of two knots an hour at least'? Of a feat like this, 
as most Europeans would call it, these men think no- 
thing ; and Perry, the head man, told me they often 
worked much harder at mahogany cutting. Before going 
to bed, I called upon Mr. Thomas, Mr. Goussin, and 
Colonel Vega. The daughters of the latter favoured me 
with some popular airs on the guitar, while their father 
placed all that he had " muy a la disposition de usted." 

Saturday, January 21st, 1860. — We were all too tired 
to make an early start to Masaya ; in fact, a night's rest 
was absolutely necessary ; consequently we decided not 
to start until the afternoon, and so avoid the hottest 
part of the day. There are regular times for setting off 
on the journey, — either very early in the morning or 
late in the afternoon, — and the muleteers will not de- 
viate one jot or tittle from the " custom of the country," 
although, for our parts, the sun's rays would scarcely 
have struck us as a very great hardship after the late 
exposure. A friend at Greytown supplied me with the 
following memoranda for guidance in travelling through 
this part of Nicaragua. 

" Leave Granada for Masaya at 5 a.m. or at 4 p.m. ; the 
distance is twelve miles, and ought to be ridden in two 
hours and a half. Sleep at Masaya. From Masaya to 
Managua it is twenty-four miles, which ought to be 
ridden in four hours and a half. Start very early. From 


Managua to Matiares (a small village) it is eighteen 
miles, about a three hours' ride. Matiares to Naga- 
rote, fifteen miles, requiring two hours and a half. Na- 
garote to Pueblo Nuevo, twelve miles, a two hours' ride. 
Pueblo Nuevo to Leon, twenty-one miles, about four 
hours on the road. 

Distances : — Granada to Managua . . . 
Managua to Leon .... 







Total distance 102 18* 


" Time requisite, three days at least. 

" Silver will be required, principally small change." 

In the meantime we made a short tour of inspection. 
The streets about the jolaza, which is situated near the 
centre of the city, are roughly paved, inclining gently 
towards the middle of the road from either side, and 
thus forming a central gutter. The pavement for foot 
passengers is raised about eighteen inches above the 
road, and is very narrow ; indeed, it requires some little 
navigation to enable two people to pass : an English 
lady would want the entire footpath to herself, but 
here crinoline is as yet unknown ; it therefore does not 
so much matter. At a short distance from the plaza the 
streets are left in a state of nature, being sandy in the 
dry and muddy in the wet season. It was impossible 
not to be struck with the stagnation all around. It is 
true that the time of our walk was the hour of siesta, 
but I have never observed in any Spanish town, even 
at that lazy period of the day, such stillness as was 
the case at Granada. Indeed the town has suffered a 
heavy blow, from which it may possibly not entirely 

T 2 


recover; only a few houses are slowly rising from their 
ashes, and those of quite a common order of archi- 
tecture, showing, as I conceive, a sort of accepted, if 
not contented degeneracy. Poor Granada! it is one 
of the oldest cities in the New World, having been 
founded by Cordova in 1562. I fear it has now ar- 
rived at el ultimo suspiro. The population does not 
now exceed 8000, or at most 10,000 inhabitants. The 
houses of the wealthier classes are of adobes,* and 
appear to be very comfortable and well adapted to 
the climate. They are seldom more than one story 
high, and are built in the form of a square, generally 
upon a stone foundation, having a patio, or courtyard, 
in the centre, upon which all the rooms open. The 
patio, when neatly laid out with flowers and a foun- 
tain, has a most charming effect ; between it and the 
rooms there is a railing and broad pavement, over which 
the tiled roof is made to extend, so that the inmates 
can walk all round under shelter in the heaviest rains ; 
the windows are not glazed, but protected with iron 
bars ; and the rooms are guiltless of ceilings. There 
are commonly two massive gateways, and the kitchen is 

* Jarvis, in his * Scenes and Scenery in the Sandwich Islands,' makes 
the following remark on adobes : — " These bricks, no doubt, are of pre- 
cisely the same make and pattern as those required of the children of 
Israel by their Egyptian taskmasters. Indeed, the resemblance between 
a group of Hawaiians making the bricks, and the implements employed by 
them, are strikingly similar to a hieroglyphical painting some 4000 years 
old. . . . Adaub was the Egyptian word for this kind of brick, and it is 
still used by the Copts, etc. Doubtless the Saracens derived it from the 
Egyptians, and carried it into Spain ; thence it went into America, and 
from America to the Hawaiian islands. Continuing westward, it may 
arrive at the land of its birth." 


generally detached from the main building. The ven- 
tilation is perfect, and the houses all seem delightfully 
cool. The huts of the poorer people are mere mud and 
plaster, badly thatched, and can scarcely be called wea- 
ther-proof. To this cause, and to their careless habits, 
may be fairly ascribed the sickness which so often ex- 
clusively visits the lower orders in this very healthy 
country. Most of the churches are in ruins, and priests 
appear to be at a discount. The work of destruction 
by Henningsen commenced on the 21st of November, 
1856, and eight churches were more or less destroyed, 
viz. the Jaltaba, the Mercedes, the parochial church 
in the plaza, the San Sabastian, the Guadalupe, the 
Esquipulas, the San Juan de Dios, and the San Fran- 
cisco. It is impossible to walk about Granada without 
a deep feeling of sorrow for its wretched condition, and 
a longing desire to aid in the regeneration of the 
country generally; but I fear this can only be effec- 
tually accomplished by the gradual substitution of a 
new race in place of the present Spanish element. It 
is curious to observe, no matter in what part of the 
world they have set their seal, how wickedly and self- 
ishly the Spaniard has used the power which the Al- 
mighty permitted him to enjoy. In his own country 
this is not less a fact ; and I remember being particu- 
larly struck with the stagnation in the city of Granada, 
— one of the most ancient cities of the Old World, — 
a year or two ago, when I was rambling amongst the 
ruins of the Alhambra. Granada in Spain is just as 
much behind the time as its namesake in Nicaragua. 
I am sure that Montesquieu ought to have said that 


" God permitted that Spaniards (not Turks) should exist 
on earth, a people the most fit to possess uselessly a 
great empire." At 3.30 p.m. the mules were at the 
door, and we started, accompanied by an American den- 
tist, who was making money by tooth-drawing. He was 
a very gentlemanly person, and quite won upon all of us. 
He told us that the teeth of Nicaragua were sadly out 
of order. Our guide was an extremely disagreeable-look- 
ing fellow, and did not belie his looks, for soon after 
starting I had occasion to ask him a question, which he did 
not choose to " intiende " (understand), so I determined 
to stop that sort of conduct at once, and, seizing him 
by the collar, told him that if he did not " intiende " 
every word I said to him, and that right sharply, I 
would break every bone in his body. I had no more 
trouble with our worthy guide. Our saddles gave us 
great discomfort; in the first place, they were of the 
rudest form of construction — little better, indeed, than 
pack-saddles — with a sheepskin or pillion thrown over 
the wooden excrescences ; and in the next place, our late 
repeated duckings had made our skins tender, like a 
washerwoman's, so that we lost a considerable amount 
of cuticle in a very short space of time. We did not 
reach Masaya without some amusement. Otter, " of 
ours," dismounted to pick up a spur, and upon at- 
tempting to get into the saddle again, the mule dealt 
him a kick which sent him flying into the bush. How- 
ever, no bones were broken, and after a good laugh we 
pushed on again, arriving at Masaya a little after 7 
o'clock, having been three hours and a half on the road, 
— if road it could be called, being merely a cutting 


through the bush to the width of about ten or fifteen 
feet. The country is flat the whole way to the Gulf of 
Fonseca ; indeed, it is said that nowhere does the road 
attain a greater height than sixty feet. We passed a 
good many plantations, a few of which were devoted to 
indigo. The owners are again, but very slowly, turning 
their attention to agriculture. Indigo used to be one 
of the chief sources of wealth to Nicaragua. Its pro- 
duction was carefully attended to, with the most lucra- 
tive results ; indeed, Nicaraguan indigo commanded the 
highest price in the European market. The cultiva- 
tion has, of course, much fallen off in consequence of 
the late civil wars, but it can be resumed with advan- 
tage now that peace is restored apparently on a firm 
basis. The few plantations I observed seemed to me to 
be very carelessly tended and managed, perhaps owing 
to the blight of poverty which appears to have fallen 
on this beautiful land. 

This part of the world would be a perfect Paradise 
to the small capitalist who would be content to settle 
down for a few years, and cultivate one or more of the 
many highly remunerative products of Nicaragua. If 
the blessings of a good government only prove to be 
at last permanently secured, this magnificent country 
would offer the finest field for enterprise in the world. 
At Masaya we put up at a sort of inn, the master of 
which was so lazy that he could hardly be induced to 
get out of his hammock and make money. Our supper 
consisted of olla-podrida, tasajo, beans, bread, and coffee. 
Liquids were produced, but did not find a sale, to the 
host's evident disappointment and disgust. He could 


not understand sobriety in an Anglo-Saxon. Our beds 
were hides stretched on frames. There is an inde- 
scribable harshness about this style of couch far worse 
than a plank, to say nothing of the tendency of the ma- 
terial to harbour all sorts of vermin. 

Sunday, January 22nd, 1860. — At 4 this morning we 
turned out, and after swallowing a very nasty muddy cup 
of coffee, mounted our mules, and rode on for Mana- 
gua. Our lazy host did not forget, however, to charge 
us nine dollars for the miserable accommodation he 
had vouchsafed us. Of course our limited stay at Ma- 
saya ; and the fact that it was dark when we entered 
and dark when we left, prevents my giving any detailed 
description of the place. I could only make out that 
it was an assemblage of adobe-built houses grouped 
round the plaza, which was large, and had a decent- 
sized church in one corner. Masaya is essentially an 
Indian town, and celebrated for its hammocks and grass 
alforjas, or saddle-bags. The filibusters did not injure 
this place. Just before daylight we rode through the 
Indian village " Indiri," three miles from Masaya ; and 
three miles further on, we saw extended before us a 
large expanse of black cinder, thrown up by the vol- 
cano of Masaya, situated close on our left. From 
the highest part of the road at this place we caught 
a glimpse of the Lake of Managua, a pretty peep 
of scenery. The road was otherwise monotonous 
throughout, being merely a cutting through the dense 
underwood, with not a single habitation near it, in 
consequence, it is said, of the total absence of water 
in the dry season. We jogged along without adven- 

otter's mule. 281 

ture of any sort ; but when more than halfway Otter's 
mule began to show signs of exhaustion, and his re- 
spect for it was so great after its display of prowess 
yesterday, that he could not be induced to apply any 
corrective ; so, after awhile, he got off to lead it, when 
the animal evinced unexpected signs of recovery by 
trotting off very briskly, and leaving its master to enter 
Managua on foot. This was no joke, as the weather was 
piping hot, and the road dusty. Exactly at noon (eight 
hours from Masaya) we rode into Managua, which is 
merely a large scattered assemblage of huts : there is a 
plaza, and one principal street of adobe-built houses, 
with earth or brick floors, as in Granada and Masaya. 
The plaza contains the church, barracks, and govern- 
ment house, over which the Nicaraguan flag was flying ; 
it is very simple, — blue, white, blue, in perpendicular 
bars. The streets are unpaved, and the place has alto- 
gether a most impoverished and woe-begone appear- 
ance. A few soldiers were lounging about in the plaza, 
close to their barracks, and on the whole were very fair 
specimens of military for this part of the world. Ma- 
nagua has for some time been fixed upon as the capital, 
and Congress meets here ; the President also has a resi- 
dence facing the plaza. This step was found necessary, 
in order to put an end to the bitter rivalry between Leon 
and Granada for the honour of being the seat of go- 
vernment ; this rivalry was within a hair's breadth of de- 
stroying the Nicaraguan nationality altogether, at the 
time when Anglo-Saxon aid, as represented by Walker, 
was called in. The town and neighbourhood contains 
about ten thousand inhabitants; the houses are built 


quite close to the Lake, but that inland sea does not 
seem in much request for commercial purposes. I did 
not notice a single vessel upon its waters, and the bon- 
gos and canoes hauled up on the beach were the very 
rudest specimens of naval architecture I have ever seen 
in any part of the world, without any exception what- 

After a short rest at the fonda, or inn, which we 
found of considerable proportions and well filled, mostly 
with Americans who had come here on transit business, 
I proceeded, under the guidance of a native, to call 
upon Mr. Wyke (our new minister to the Central Ame- 
rican States) to fulfil the object of my journey, namely, 
to put him in possession of the latest and most impor- 
tant information on the subject for which he had been 
sent out to this part of the world. I informed him of the 
present value of Greytown, as illustrated by the chart 
of my late survey, and that it was more than probable 
that it would soon become a lagoon, like Pearl Cay or 
Blewfields ; I also pointed out the reasons why the port 
and river were probably used up for transit, therefore 
the object of retaining it within the Mosquito territory 
no longer existed. It had been my good fortune to 
discover the capabilities of a bay which, I proved by 
means of my sketch survey, was admirably suited in 
every respect for the Atlantic terminus of a railroad, 
which would traverse Nicaragua from end to end, and 
thus offer the means of restoring that country to a place 
among the nationalities by turning its geographical po- 
sition to some account. As it would take some five or 
six years to complete such an undertaking, in the mean- 


time, by simply crossing the country instead of travers- 
ing it from end to end, a transit route might be opened 
in two years. The immense political and commercial im- 
portance such an independent line would be to England 
no one could doubt, and I am bound to say, Mr. Wyke 
appeared struck with the project, and admitted its im- 
portance ; but I have no hesitation in adding that his 
spirit was troubled at my presence, and that he made no 
scruple in telling me that he would far rather have been 
without the information I had brought. I must con- 
fess to bitter disappointment, having made the toilsome 
journey to Managua with the Utopian idea that any 
Englishman, especially an accredited minister, would 
do what he could for his country's benefit ; and par- 
ticularly anxious that England should at least reap the 
advantage of the proposed transit, if not possess the 
entire control. 

At Mr. Wyke's urgent request, I did not call upon 
the President, so that I cannot describe that dignitary, 
but I have heard that he is a very agreeable and intelli- 
gent personage. At the fonda we fared well, though 
not sumptuously, and failed altogether to obtain a dish 
of the Lake sardines, which are said to be delicious and 
to resemble our whitebait ; but we were favoured with 
some first-rate cacao, the national beverage, or more 
properly speaking, food of Nicaragua, for it can hardly 
be said to be served up in a liquid state. Of all places 
in the world this state produces the best cacao, and it 
may literally be called the wealth of the country, as, 
when not employed in bringing in gold and silver by 
its exportation, it is used as small change by the people, 


and it is to this day, as it was at the time of the con- 
quest of the country, a legal tender. The Thcobroma 
Cacao (from the Greek, signifying "food for a God," 
and the Aztec name of the tree) seldom attains thirty 
feet in height ; the beans are contained in pods, some- 
thing like the shape of the outside covering of a very 
large broad-bean ; as many as thirty beans are often 
found in the pod. The tree is very tender, and when 
young has to be carefully protected from the power- 
ful rays of the sun; it is then shaded by the plan- 
tain, but another tree of rapid growth is planted along- 
side it, and as soon as its branches afford the requisite 
protection, the plantain is removed, and the cacao-tree 
left to its permanent protector, called " Madre de Ca- 
cao," mother of the cacao. At the end of seven years 
the cacao begins to bear, but does not reach perfection 
until fifteen ; it continues productive about thirty-five 
years. One man can tend a thousand trees and harvest 
the crop. Capital is required to begin a plantation, but 
when once fairly started the return is excellent ; a thou- 
sand trees will yield twelve hundred pounds per annum, 
which would fetch in the market at the lowest esti- 
mate £300 ; deduct for the labourer £20, and other 
expenses, say £30, total £50, leaving a clear annual 
profit of £250. A hacienda of ten thousand trees is not 
particularly large, and that will yield £2700 per annum 
when once started. 




Satukday, Jan. 2ord, 1860. — Early astir this morning ; 
finished my correspondence with " our minister," and 
after sending it off, with a message that I should call 
before leaving, went down to the Lake to bathe in its 
discoloured water ; better that than none, for really the 
people at the inn were so stingy of the element that 
there was no other method of washing. In their abhor- 
rence of water, the Spanish Americans, in all parts of 
the continent, seem to be unanimous. I remember the 
unmitigated astonishment of the natives upon seeing 
me bathe in the different streams, when I was journey- 
ing through the Andes, some time ago, particularly at 
Loja, where such a crowd collected, that I had to borrow 
a cloak under the shadow of which to undress, and then 
take to the water in my trousers ; the ladies by far out- 
numbering the male spectators. 

While I was bathing, Sewell took my letter to Mr. 
Wyke, and informed him that I should make a parting 


call before leaving, to which that gentleman replied that 
he was engaged, and feared he would not be able to see 
me. On returning to the fonda, I there found Mr. Eden, 
attache to our minister, who informed me that Mr. Wyke 
would not be engaged ; however, I cut this Gordian 
knot of diplomacy, by sending one of the young offi- 
cers down to " our minister," with a P. P. C. card. 

Whilst making my adieux to Mr. Dimitri, the Ame- 
rican minister, who was standing at the gateway of the 
inn to see us off, and thanking him for several little 
attentions and acts of hospitality, my mule started off, 
allowing me only to put one foot in the stirrup ; by 
great exertion however, I succeeded in perching myself 
on the animal's stern, like the boys one sees on the don- 
keys at Hampstead ; but the creature began to kick and 
plunge in so violent a manner that not even a negro 
could have kept his seat, and consequently, after a short 
struggle to get into the saddle, I was thrown over its 
head, and, to the great amusement of all present, depo- 
sited most ingloriously in the middle of the road. I did 
not however escape so well as my friend Otter, for my 
wrist and heel were sprained, and I was much shaken. 
Mounting again, and giving a gentle reminder to my 
mule, it was very curious to observe the manner in 
which all its vivacity and spirit seemed to depart, as it 
broke into the usual ambling trot, flapping its ears, 
lazily and naturally, just as if it were quite incapable 
of dislodging its rider. 

At 10.45 a.m. we were fairly en route, Otter riding 
the guide's horse, a very lean tame Eosinante, while the 
guide mounted Otter's lame mule, which had to carry 


our baggage, and two portmanteaus slung over his back 
in addition. The cunning brute was however probably 
acquainted with its present rider, and knew better than 
to play any sort of tricks. At half-past three we arrived 
at Masaya without any adventure, merely stopping a 
few minutes on the road to pick up some cinders dis- 
charged from the hill or volcano of Masaya, called by 
the natives Infiemo — hell. It is about twenty miles 
from the Lake of Nicaragua, and six from Masaya. 
The volcano is still active ; there was an eruption so 
lately as 1859, but hardly deserving the name; that of 
1670 was very severe, the flood of lava extending many 
miles. The high-road from Granada to Nicaragua 
passes over this lava-field, and the traveller cannot fail 
to be struck with the singularity of the irregular black 
expanse before him. Except in colour, it reminded me 
forcibly of a vast floe of hummocky ice, dotted here and 
there with bergs, such as I have often seen in the Arc- 
tic regions. Arrived at Masaya, we had time before 
dark to look around us. Masaya is inhabited almost en- 
tirely by Indians, who are most industrious. They have 
a considerable trade in hats, mats, cordage, hammocks, 
saddles and bridles, shoes, and almost every article of 
domestic use. We were in good time to see their daily 
fair, an aboriginal custom. The plaza was crowded 
with people, bringing every conceivable article of pro- 
duce which the country affords, and which they spread 
out for sale. The scene is a singular one ; and for its 
animation, and the eagerness of the natives to do busi- 
ness, is quite equal to an Anglo-Saxon market. The 
population of the town and suburbs may be about 


15,000. There are very extensive plantations all round 
the town, and a large amount of Agave, or silk grass, 
growing in the vicinity, from which the cordage, ham- 
mocks, etc., are manufactured. The great drawback to 
Masaya and the neighbouring country is the want of 
water. This necessary of life has to be fetched from 
the Lake of Masaya by the women, by the slow and 
toilsome process of carrying jars of the precious fluid 
on their heads and backs. There have been several 
foreign proposals to bring the water into the town, but 
nothing has as yet been done; the natives are help- 
less, being puzzled by the fact that the lake whence 
they draw their supplies is without any outlet, and 
the surface of the water is between 400 and 500 feet 
below the level of the surrounding country. After 
making a few trifling purchases, and staring at a man 
who was to be executed in a few days, and who was 
quietly walking about in the plaza, dangling his chains, 
we returned to the fonda, where dinner was prepared, I 
must say in a better style than before, partly owing 
to the exertions of a Mr. Wassmann, whose acquaint- 
ance we made, and who was very kind and attentive. 
We slept without mosquitoes, fleas, or bugs, for a won- 
der, but their absence was more than made up for by 
ticks, which at this season swarm in the bushes, espe- 
cially in the roadside, and stick to the person like 
leeches, but, unlike the latter, instead of dropping off 
when full, they bury their heads in the skin, and if 
allowed introduce their entire body under the cuticle, 
where they deposit their eggs. The negroes are very 
expert in extracting them from the flesh : it is of im- 


portance to withdraw them intact, otherwise a painfnl 
sore will result. Plentiful ablution is tne best remedy ; 
they dislike water as much as the bipeds. If the insect 
is removed at once, no inconvenience is felt; twenty-four 
hours' delay does the mischief. 

Tuesday, June 24cth, 1860. — Had a decent breakfast, 
with little more to pay than we had been let in for 
at our first visit; we therefore mounted our mules in 
a much more contented frame of mind than when leav- 
ing here last. At 9 we set off, weather very hot and 
roads dusty; but thanks to Mr. Wassmann, who took 
the trouble to start us by a different route than the 
one we came by, we had a very pleasant ride ; the track, 
winding over higher ground, gave us some very pretty 
peeps of the two lakes and the Chontales Mountains. 
The most noticeable feature on the road was the num- 
ber and gigantic size of the cotton-trees ; they form 
quite a foreground in Nicaraguan scenery, and seem 
to domineer over the surrounding vegetation. At 1 p.m., 
we arrived in Granada. During our absence the canoe 
had been taken to a place called the Cocos, which 
is somewhat sheltered, whereas Granada is on a dead 
lee shore, with very heavy surf, sometimes prevent- 
ing boats from starting for days together. Any delay 
would have been great a inconvenience to me, as I was 
anxious to catch the mail due on the 29th. In the 
afternoon I had a long chat with Colonel Vega and 
Senor Gusman, both of whom were much struck with 
my project, and promised their hearty co-operation. 
They both assured me that a permit from the Govern- 
ment to make the preliminary survey, from Monkey 



Point to the Lake of Nicaragua at San Miguelito, was 
unnecessary, and that I might commence as soon as I 
pleased. However, I left instructions with Mr. Wass- 
mann to get a written permit, and send it to me at Grey- 
town, as soon as possible. 

Having arrived so early, I was able to get a better 
view of the city, or rather what is left of it, than when 
we first arrived. Everywhere ruins and dilapidations 
stared me in the face, even in the plaza ; the most no- 
ticeable building was occupied by soldiers, and very re- 
spectable military specimens they were, especially the 
officers, one of whom was a most dashing-looking young 
fellow, and very courteous. Granada was founded on 
the site of an aboriginal town ; it formerly ranked next 
to Leon in extent, population, and commerce, but since 
the independence, the frequent recurrence of civil wars 
has, little by little, shorn it of its fair proportions, until 
at last General Henningsen put the finishing touch to 
it in 1856, and it is now certainly in a deplorable con- 
dition. The centre of the town is about half a mile from 
the little bay on the lake, which is the port of entry, and 
affords some slight shelter from the prevailing trade- 
winds, — not enough, however, as I have mentioned above, 
to enable a boat or canoe to land in smooth water, when 
there is a strong trade-wind. The church, so gallantly 
defended by the filibusters, is a short distance from the 
city, on the road to the lake ; I examined it with great 
curiosity. The walls yet standing were absolutely riddled ; 
it is a wonder the garrison did not perish to a man ; no- 
thing but Walker's timely arrival saved them. In olden 
times Granada was the entrepot of an immense commerce 


with the surrounding provinces. It is related that two 
hundred years ago, as many as eighteen hundred mules 
from San Salvador and Honduras entered the city in a 
single day, laden with hides, cochineal, and indigo ; and 
on another day, nine hundred mules laden with silver. 
But, as it is out of the present line of transit, it is proba- 
ble that its ancient greatness is gone for ever. There will 
however always be a considerable population in its vici- 
nity, if only to take advantage of the richness and fertility 
of the surrounding soil. The great sight at Granada is 
the chasm which extends about halfway round the city ; 
there is not even a tradition about it, but no doubt it 
was caused by an earthquake. The natives say it is so 
deep in some places that no line ever made could reach 
the bottom, but generally its dimensions average 50 feet 
in depth, varying from 5 to 500 feet in width. 

The commerce of Granada is carried on in bongos, 
which are very primitive specimens of naval architecture ; 
in fact, the bongo is simply a rudely-constructed barge of 
from eight to ten tons, the after-part boarded in, for the 
accommodation of passengers; this covering extends 
about one-third the length of the vessel ; the remainder 
is quite open, with thwarts for the pullers to sit upon. 
The crew generally consists of twelve men and the pa- 
tron ; these men eat, drink, and sleep on their respective 
thwarts. The cargo is made up of about 100 seroons of 
indigo, or 500 hides, or eight tons of logwood, with a 
miscellaneous stock of sundries, which the crew dispose 
of on their own account. The generality of the bongos 
have only one mast, upon which a huge lug-sail is 
hoisted. All the top hamper is of the clumsiest de- 

U 2 


scription, and the sail is so badly made that it looks like 
a large bag : the oars are simply rough spars, with a round 
piece of deal nailed on to the end. As may be imagined, 
the bongo is not easily moved ; in the wet season, for 
example, the average passage up the San Juan alone is 
fourteen days; they are often three weeks from Granada 
to Greytown : but then it must be remembered that 
the value of time is not yet understood in this country. 

The bogas, or boatmen forming the crew of a bongo, 
are quite an institution of Nicaragua ; they are perhaps 
the hardest- working men in the world. Their powers of 
endurance are most remarkable : for clays together they 
exist in a perfect state of nudity, exposed to sun and 
rain, living on plantains and jerked beef, and sleeping 
at night, without any covering from the damp air or rain, 
on the thwart on which they sit all day tugging at the 
oar, yet they always seem contented and happy ; their 
pay is eight dollars, about 355., per month, and what 
they can make by the sale of their home produce. It 
must be admitted that they are not bound by any very 
strict notions of meum and tuum if they come across 
a chance, and therefore it is always as well for the 
traveller to be on his guard when meeting with these 
gentry on either lake or river. 

In the slight curve forming the Bay of Granada, the 
bongos are unladen ; they are kept hauled up on the 
beach for the most part, but some, rather heavier than 
others, remain at anchor close up to the old fort. There 
are neither wharves nor jetties. The fort is semicircular, 
and no doubt at one time was very strong ; it is now 
in ruins. Granada is about a hundred feet above the 


Lake ; the streets run at right angles to each other. I 
did not see a single shop-window ; nothing seemed to be 
displayed for sale, except liquors, — unlike Masaya, where 
there was a goodly display, and a strong trading spirit. A 
Jamaica negro, who kept a grog-shop at the lower part 
of Granada, hailed me as a countryman, and as he did 
not claim me as a brother, I let well alone, and did not 
correct his geographical mistake. My Caribs put up at 
the establishment of this gentleman, and I believe met 
with good treatment. At the inn where we took up our 



quarters, and which, by the bye, is the only one of any 
pretension in the place, we met with the kindest atten- 
tion from both host and hostess, especially the latter, 
who exerted herself to send up some dishes curiously and 
wonderfully made. There was a regular table d'hote, at 
which several of the better class of inhabitants dined ; 
our host was a Frenchman, and his wife a native of 
Chile, a very pretty woman, and, like the rest of her 
countrywomen, fond of her cigarette and a swing in the 

Wednesday, January 2hth. — Having settled our ac- 
counts, which, on the whole, were reasonable, we left 
Granada at 7 a.m., having waited nearly two hours for 
the arrival of the mules ; the lazy arrieros never hurry 
themselves on any account. As mentioned above, I had 
left orders with Perry, our excellent head-man, to take 
the canoe to a place called Cocos, at the head of the 
Lake, where there was good shelter, and whence we 
could depart in almost any weather; accordingly, we 
made our adieux, mounted, and pushed on for Cocos pre- 
paratory to embarking. Our course lay along the borders 


of the Lake, and our ride would have been a delight- 
ful one but for the dust, which, at this season of the 
year, is nearly knee-deep. We were accompanied by 
M. Jules Thevenet, a French civil engineer employed on 
the usual business — transit. We had met him first at 
Masaya, and the whole party voted him a particularly 
nice fellow ; so, finding that he was unable to get any 
means of conveyance to Greytown, I offered him a pas- 
sage in our canoe, which he gladly accepted. We passed 
two or three ranchos, a considerable number of cattle, 
and the usual amount of cotton-trees; the distance 
from Granada to the Cocos is about eighteen miles, 
quite a level road. When nearly halfway, we had to 
cross an arm of the Lake running some distance 
inland, thus forming a lagoon; the water was not 
very deep, being only up to the mules' bellies, but it 
was covered with green slime, very thick and dirty, 
and said to teem with alligators. The ford was at 
least a quarter of a mile across, and when about the 
middle I was startled by a cry behind, and turning, ex- 
pected to see one at least of the party in the jaws of an 
alligator; the noise, however, was simply a wail from 
Devereux, who had dropped his naked sword into the 
slimy water, and fancied it gone for ever ; but after 
groping about a little, he was so fortunate as to recover 
his weapon, which was sticking upright in the mud. 
There was not one of the party who did not rejoice 
when he found himself on the opposite side of this de- 
testable stagnant pool, where an enterprising alligator 
might have taken a bite, or even a whole leg, from any 
of us, without a moment's warning. 


Our faithful Perry met us hereabouts, and told us all 
was ready for a start ; he rode on in front, showing off 
his horsemanship, and pointing out the best road. At 
eleven arrived at Cocos, which is a small village, con- 
taining about one hundred inhabitants. Here we found 
the canoe half drawn up out of the water, with all her 
gear neatly stowed, and ready for a start ; while on the 
beach a roaring fire was blazing away, and a good meal 
of stewed meat and vegetables was ready for us. It 
was a wild scene, but a very enjoyable one ; a smile 
even gleamed upon the grim visage of our guide and 
muleteer, who gladly accepted some of the good cheer, 
before turning round to take his beasts back to Gra- 
nada. While making our repast, the crew packed up 
the traps ; everything had been nicely dried and folded, 
so that we really seemed to start fresh ; indeed it would 
be impossible to speak too highly of the excellent con- 
duct of our Carib crew: brave, hard-working, always 
cheerful, they quite won upon us, and I believe, if we 
had unfortunately got into a row with the Nicaraguans, 
they would have stuck to us through thick and thin. It 
was amusing to hear the contemptuous way in which 
they spoke of the natives, and to see the distant manner 
which they preserved towards them. The Caribs must 
not be confounded with the negroes ; they are quite a 
different race, and vastly superior. 

Started at 12.30 for Greytown. Cocos is protected 
by a low marshy island, and is a very respectable har- 
bour for small craft ; it appeared to me in every respect 
a better site for a town than Granada. There is quite 
water enough for the largest bongo, and the port has 


the great advantage of being well to windward, so that 
it can be entered and left at any time ; for it must be 
remembered that the prevailing wind is from the north- 
east (the trade-wind), which, not being obstructed in its 
passage from the Caribbean Sea, blows with almost as 
much force as it does on the ocean. I am surprised that 
the bongos do not discharge their cargoes here : by do- 
ing so, much time and labour would be saved, while a 
good deal of uncertainty and risk would be avoided. 
Half an hour after starting, passed the mouth of the 
Tipitapa, which joins the two lakes ; it seemed broad, 
but is, I understand, too shallow even for a canoe at 
this season; I observed a few houses on the eastern 
side. The Lake of Nicaragua is connected with that of 
Managua by the river Panaloya or Tipitapa, which runs 
into the former at lat. 12° 10' K, long. 85° 50' W. ; it 
is N. 25, E. 15|- miles from the circular fort at Granada. 
Its exit from Managua is at lat. 12°15' N., long. 86°03' W. 
The width of this communication varies from 150 to 
600 feet ; its total length, including windings, is about 
20 miles, but it is only navigable for canoes. There are 
several small villages in its vicinity. 

The canoe was very deep with our extra passenger, 
M. Thevenet, and his baggage, but we got well under 
the weather side of the Lake by half-past four, and 
could then look forward to smooth water for the rest 
of the voyage. We had plenty of " ripping " this after- 
noon, so were all well washed, and looked out sharp for 
a resting-place ; but no sandy bay was to be seen, and 
we should most probably have had to push on without 
sleep or food, had not the quick-eared Caribs heard 


voices, and on pulling in, discovered a bongo, from the 
patron of which we learnt that we were qnite close to a 
landing-place in a little island : this we had no difficulty 
in finding, and soon had a fire lit and dinner cooking. 
Our camp was only just big enough for our party; but 
where will not mosquitoes penetrate % They soon invaded 
us by legions. 

By a process which seems inevitable to the traveller, 
provided he has money to squander, he finds his lug- 
gage increase, stage by stage, on his journey, and most 
certainly we were not exempt on the present occasion ; 
but in our case we had reason to rejoice, for among our 
purchases were several hammocks, which we now pro- 
duced, and hanging them up to the trees, found our 
selves very respectably located for the night. Our new 
beds not only kept us off the wet earth, but elevated 
us above any hungry alligator who might be prowling 
about. The only fault to be found with a hammock 
is, that being made of open network, it offers no opposi- 
tion to the onslaught of the mosquitoes, which riot un- 
checked over your entire body, from head to foot. 

Thursday ', January 26th. — At daylight we left our en- 
campment, but very little refreshed by our sojourn there. 
Of the white portion of the party not one had closed his 
eyes, but the Caribs, I suppose, had " hides of toughest 
leather," through which the mosquitoes could not thrust 
their proboscis. The characteristic scenery of this north- 
ern shore of the Lake is savana land, undulating away 
into the interior. Thousands of people might follow pas- 
toral avocations in this favoured region without jostling 
one another ; and I could not help feeling what a glo- 


rious immigration-field might be opened up in Nicaragua. 
The country may be divided into three districts, offering 
every inducement the mind of man can desire. The first 
district would be the Chontales Mountains, teeming with 
gold and other precious metals and minerals : this may 
be called the cold zone. The second district would be 
included between the mountains and the lakes, a vast 
agricultural country, which may be termed the tem- 
perate zone ; while the third district would be the strip 
of land between the lakes and the Pacific, prolific in 
all the products of the tropics, the tierra caliente, or 
hot lands, of the Spaniards, — in other words, the torrid 
zone. What a thousand pities there are not a few 
Anglo-Saxons settled in this magnificent country ; how 
soon it would then take its well-deserved position 
among the nations ! Only two miserable ranchos were 
observed ; the coast-line is almost uninhabited. As far as 
I could judge in running along the land, I should say 
that there was not a single impediment or engineering 
difficulty to be met with on the entire shore until reach- 
ing the vicinity of our last night's bivouac, where the 
existence of a rocky spur would probably compel a 
slight detour or cutting. We had a good deal of pad- 
dling, owing to the lightness of the wind ; but as the 
day advanced it increased, and our Caribs lost no time 
in making sail, and enjoying their favourite pastime of 
" letting her rip," when, as usual, we were speedily wet 
to the skin. At 10 we passed a very low point about 
twelve miles beyond the Three Cays, or starting-point 
for Granada, when the wind came right ahead, and we 
had to recommence paddling. After an hour's work we 


reached a small sandy bay, into which we joyfully 
steered the canoe, and landing, had a fire alight and 
breakfast cooking in no time ; an hour and a half's rest, 
with an excellent meal, set us all up, and the Caribs 
resumed their paddles with a good will. At 12.30 
we were under way again, the sun striking down with 
full power upon us and no mistake, — sufficient, as the 
saying is, to scorch the brains of a brass monkey. 
It was not very long before every sign of the thorough 
drenching we had just undergone by the " ripping " 
process disappeared, and we found ourselves in the oppo- 
site extreme, dry indeed ; however, before we had fairly 
commenced growling, down came the rain, so we were 
constrained to laugh, for really there was no pleasing us ; 
we did not like " ripping," we growled at the sun, and 
abused the rain. What was to be done ! We passed 
several rivulets, or ester os ; they were of inconsiderable 
breadth, and we could not observe any current at their 
mouths. The alligators might be numbered by hun- 
dreds in this vicinity, which seems a favourite resort of 
theirs ; they constantly rose close to the canoe, and as 
soon as they saw her, sank again in their indescribably 
noiseless manner. We did not succeed in killing any ; 
the bullets seemed to glance off their scaly hides. We 
constantly passed numbers of trees growing in the 
water, the branches of which were thickly crowded 
with young shags and cranes: a tree covered with 
these white birds has a most peculiar effect, unlike 
anything I had ever seen before. At 4.30 we reached 
the Chontales Islands, upwards of twenty in number, 
and none of them higher than forty feet. Great quan- 


titles of wild ducks were swimming about in the vari- 
ous channels. We were nearly two hours before we 
were clear of the islands. I had hoped to have reached 
Cocito (the lovers' abode) before dark, but was disap- 
pointed, and it was not until 9 o'clock and a great deal 
of groping about, that the canoe grated upon the beach 
of that place. 

After landing I went up to the hut, which certainly 
was the filthiest specimen of architecture it has ever 
been my fate to see ; the young lovers were at home, busy 
spooning and scratching themselves in a corner. Perry 
soon bought all we required, fowls, eggs, etc., and our 
supper was speedily under way ; in the meantime each 
individual of our party was stretched at full length, with 
his feet to the fire, enjoying a sound nap, in spite of the 
mosquitoes. I, however, tempted by my evil genius, in- 
vaded the hut and took possession of the only bed, a 
sort of wattled bunk covered with a bull's hide, and 
with a lump of wood for a pillow. The vermin, however, 
were in legions, almost enough to drag one's body to the 
ground, so that at 11, when I was roused up to supper, I 
was in a pretty state ; but I almost felt that I had been 
justly punished for so summarily disturbing the love- 
sick Juan and his charmer, both of whom had retreated 
outside the hut when I took up my quarters within. After 
supper, we all lay down again on the sand ; there were no 
trees to which the hammocks could be suspended ; but 
it is needless to say we slept soundly, quite regardless of 
either large or small reptilia. 

Friday, January 27th. — At 3.30 a.m., we were again 
under way in the canoe, after swallowing a very refresh- 


ing cup of coffee. My most emphatic advice to the 
traveller in this part of the world is, whatever you do 
take care of your store of tea and coffee ; the value of 
either of these most refreshing beverages in tropical 
climates cannot be overrated. The weather was not 
pleasant ; there was a chilly, drizzling rain, wetting us 
through, and making us shiver with the cold. A lit- 
tle after 6, made sail, which is always a delight to the 
Caribs ; and in this instance, as the " ripping " could not 
make us wetter, besides driving the canoe twice as fast 
as when paddling, we all rejoiced. 7.25, passed Pedronal 
and ran across the bay to San Miguelito, " ripping " all 
the way, arriving at that place at 8.30. Landed and 
went to the house of Montenegro, where Perry cooked 
the breakfast, which we discussed without sauce. Saw 
the man whose wife I had doctored on the road up, 
and learnt that she was quite recovered, for which the 
grateful husband said, "Dios a lo pagar " (God will 
pay you). However I thought I might just as well 
make him useful, so giving him money, told him to get 
some eggs, but the lazy fellow would not stir; and I was 
fain to take back my money and send one of my own 
men. Just as we were starting, the same man came to 
me in the coolest manner, saying that his wife might 
possibly be taken ill again, and would I give him some 
of the same medicine as before % — to which I replied in 
so emphatic a manner as rather startled my friend. 

Alligators are numerous about San Miguelito ; I saw 
a very large one on the beach, and just before we arrived, 
a lad had been bitten in the knee by one, which tried 
all it could to drag him into the water. At 10.30, 


left San Miguelito, and soon passed through the islands, 
after which we had to paddle well to windward, and then 
make a good stretch right to the entrance of the San 
Juan ; the wind at times was north, and quite fresh, and 
we shipped a good deal of water, sufficient to keep us 
constantly employed baling. I should not have been 
surprised to have found myself wet-footed by the time 
I reached the ship. It is surprising how, almost simul- 
taneously with the freshening of the breeze, the Lake 
becomes rough, with quite heavy toppling waves, big 
enough to make our run from San Miguelito a very 
hazardous one, deep-loaded as our canoe was. A small 
open boat or canoe therefore ought to keep as near 
the shore as possible, for in less than a quarter of an 
hour after the wind rises, the waves become quite for- 
midable. A Ryde wherry would be the craft either for 
the Lake or the Mosquito Coast. The coast from San 
Miguelito to San Carlos is very low, with many bays 
intervening. The entrance to the San Juan is well 
marked by a curious tree of gigantic size on the Point, 
after rounding which the fort and huts appear in sight. 
At 3.30 arrived on board the ' Cass Irisarri,' to the 
great delight of every one. Perry was soon at work 
cooking, and we all enjoyed a good meal and some egg- 
nog, and then lay down for a real sound sleep on the 
deck. The ' Cass Irisarri ' seems a good solid steamer, 
and fit for Lake service ; she might be very useful for 
surveying purposes, about which I had a long conversa- 
tion with her captain. There is a stern wheeler lying 
close to, but sadly out of repair. I obtained a good 
deal of information from Captain Slocum (of Newport, 


Ehode Island) about Nicaragua. He fervently wished 
me success in my Transit project, and hoped I should 
have need of his vessel, which he told me belonged to 
himself and the engineer ; his late masters, the Transit 
Company, having quite forgotten to pay the considerable 
arrears of wages due to them. A perceptible rise and 
fall, caused entirely by the wind, is often observed on 
the Lake, to the extent of a foot even; of course, there is 
a very great difference in the height of the water in 
the wet and dry seasons. Mr. Baily says as much as six 
feet six inches has been observed; but this, of course, 
varies according to the nature of the season. 

Saturday, January 28th. — To look at the canoe this 
morning made one feel quite queer, the gunwale was 
so close to the water : some more weights had been put 
into her, and any unprejudiced sailor would have pro- 
nounced her unsafe ; but we had no choice, and there- 
fore simply made arrangements for throwing overboard 
the least valuable of our possessions in case of necessity. 
The fact was, we had brought more baggage with us than 
was needful. I had left a good many things on board 
the ' Cass Irissari' to lighten the canoe for crossing the 
Lake ; and well it was for us that this precaution had 
been taken, otherwise I believe we should have foun- 
dered, when in the gale off Granada. Now, however, we 
were loaded like a sand-barge. 

This morning we woke up like giants refreshed, show- 
ing how comparative one's idea of comfort is ; the deck 
of the steamer was as good as a feather-bed, as far as 
we were concerned. We had a good view of the Lake 
scenery, and now that we have had some experience of 


it, feel disposed to pay a just tribute of admiration to its 
beauty and variety. At 8, bade good-bye to the Lake, 
and began the descent of the river, which is rather nar- 
row and shallow at its commencement, and broken up 
by one or two islands. It is about 200 or 300 yards 
across, and the shores are densely wooded. The fort 
commands about 1500 yards. The guns are sheltered 
by a light shed — a very good protection from the wea- 
ther, and which might be copied with advantage by more 
civilized countries. The fort itself might be held by 
resolute men for some time, but its present possessors 
could be ejected without much trouble. The ascent of 
the river might be rendered impossible for a foe, but the 
sites chosen for defences are certainly not the best that 
could have been pitched upon. 

The San Juan is full of islands, some of them nearly 
a mile in length. At 10, passed the lagoon of Medio 
Queso, " half-cheese." Saw a monkey, and made a note 
of it, because the amount of animal life observed has 
been very trifling. After passing Isla Grande, at 11.30, 
the current became very perceptible, and the canoe 
made rapid way through the water, — very different from 
our progress against the stream. Soon after we started, 
the rain began to come down, and will do so now, 
in all probability, during the rest of the journey. At 
12.20 we passed a creek on the left, which takes its rise 
in the hills, away in the interior, and must therefore 
be a pretty long stream. Passed some bongos, one of 
which was freighted with a black colonel, who hardly 
condescended to look at us. At 10, arrived at the 
head of the Toro rapids, the rain descending in tor- 


rents. Curiosity led us to land at the mouth of the 
Savolo to examine the Rama king's habitation, and it 
proved well worth our while. It was merely a roof, sup- 
ported by uprights ; the inhabitants consisted of two 
old women, two men (all of a large size and fat), three 
wild " warries " secured to stakes, some very fierce dogs, 
and young birds just taken from the nest ; also a tame 
plantain bird, tied by its leg to a stick, and which I 
bought to present to Alice, Colonel Cauty's niece. The 
whole scene was a very queer one, every article of the 
rudest description. After staying about half an hour, 
we pushed off into the rapid, and soon left the llamas 
far behind. This tribe has never been conquered by 
the Spaniards ; the king, in broken Spanish, made us 
understand that he hated the Nicaraguans and loved 
the English : from the long pull he took at our 
bottle, I suspect that rum was at the bottom of his 

Arrived at Castillo at 3.30, and called upon Colonel 
Arguello; he introduced us to a very pretty woman, 
his wife, who did not appear on our way up. She com- 
plained of the dulness of the post, and having nothing 
to do but to smoke ; whereupon I at once tendered a 
cigar. Colonel Arguello, a strikingly handsome white 
man, improves on acquaintance; he is intelligent and 
gentlemanly ; under his guidance we went all over the 
ruins of the castle, which does not belie its external ap- 
pearance ; if anything, it is worse inside. A couple of 
filibuster field-pieces, lying on the ground, constitute the 
effective armament of the place, and the fortification 
might be taken, before these guns could be prepared for 



service. The breach made by Nelson, his tactics, etc., 
were kindly explained by the Colonel. Castillo Viejo, 
or Old Fort, bears date from the earliest period of 
the Spanish rule ; it was thoroughly reconstructed in 
1747 by the governor-intendant of Nicaragua and Cos- 
tarica. On the 29th of April, 1780, it surrendered 
to Nelson. The fortified island of Bartola, situated 
three miles below the fort, is the locality alluded to 
as having been boarded by our great naval hero. The 
castle withstood a protracted siege before it was taken, 
and the comandante, Juan de Ayssa, with his garrison 
of 228 men, was allowed to march out with all the 
honours of war, in compliment to his brave defence. 
Since that period it has often changed hands, both 
from foreign attack and during revolutionary move- 
ments ; it was first taken by an Englishman, and it never 
afterwards withstood a siege until an Englishman was 
the commandant. The story of the last assault I will 
repeat, as narrated to me. Colonel Cauty, the same 
officer whose gallantry and enterprise has been men- 
tioned in connection with the Serepiqui and San Carlos, 
was in command; he had with him thirty-two officers 
and men, and had just time to construct a one-gun bat- 
tery at the foot of the castle, when the Filibusters, under 
Colonel Titus, made their appearance. Cauty held the 
post of honour in the lower battery with eleven men, 
while Colonel Montes de Oca was stationed above in the 
castle with twenty men. The struggle was a most ob- 
stinate one. On the evening of the first day, Colonel 
Cauty was compelled to retire into the castle, — in good 
order, however, and taking the gun with him when mus- 


tered inside, the besieged found themselves reduced to 
twenty-two, one-third of their number having been killed 
or wounded. For three days the little band resisted each 
and every one of the vigorous onslaughts made upon it. 
Colonel Titus then tried what negotiation would do, and 
it was arranged that the fort should be given up if as- 
sistance did not arrive within twenty-four hours ; a 
messenger was at once sent off with pressing demands 
for assistance, and just half an hour before the expira- 
tion of the time named seventy-five riflemen arrived, who 
charged the besiegers so suddenly, and with so much 
vigour, as to compel them to beat a hasty retreat. The 
filibusters however returned to the attack with their 
force augmented to 500 men ; but the garrison having 
been strongly reinforced, they could make no impression 
on the place ; and one of their steamers having blown 
up, whereby a hundred of their number were severely in- 
jured, all further attempts were given up, and the river 
San Juan, as well as Grey town Harbour, finally cleared 
of Colonel Titus in April, 1857. On the 1st of May 
following, Walker was compelled by the allied Central 
Americans to leave the country ; and thus Nicaragua was 
once more left to itself. 

We had landed well above the rapids, and the canoe 
was eased through by the soldiers, without risk : eleven 
men out of a twenty-five-feet canoe, of course lightened 
her so much, that she ran no risk in taking the rapid. 
As I was anxious to make the best of my way to the 
ship, I did not remain one moment longer than ne- 
cessary, and by four o'clock we were once more pad- 
dling down stream. On approaching the broken water 

X 2 


of Las Balas, Mico, and Machuca, respectively, our 
hearts were in our mouths ; but our trusty Caribs knew 
their work. On approaching the rapids, each man pad- 
dled gently, reserving his strength till quite close to the 
boiling, turbulent water, when, at a signal from Perry, 
the whole of the men, with a wild shout, dug their 
paddles deep into the river, and gave the canoe such 
an impetus, that she seemed to fly ; one of the crew, 
named Manuel, sang with a measured cadence, the 
Caribs keeping their stroke in time. Every now and 
then Manuel would give a wild yell or shout, and all 
hands flinging their paddles with a twirling motion 
high into the air, caught them as they fell with great 
dexterity, and striking the water with the flats sent a 
cloud of spray over the canoe. This bit of wild pan- 
tomime seemed to infuse a sort of demoniacal strength 
into all hands; for a moment all was spray, noise, 
and shouting, during which the canoe rushed over the 
rapid like a mad thing. 

Las Balas, Mico, and Machuca having thus been 
passed in safety, we soon arrived at Mr. Emmons's house, 
where we had left the ' Laura Frances ' on our way up ; 
at 5.10 we were at the landing, and gladly made our 
way with all speed under shelter from the pouring rain. 
Mrs. Emmons soon had a hot dinner ready for us, to 
which we did ample justice. The contrast between 
the interior of a native house and that of an Anglo- 
Saxon settler is wonderful. Mrs. Emmons had her 
house as neat and clean as possible, everything in its 
place ; poor thing, she seemed born for better things 
than living in an amphibious state on the banks of the 

5 z 

n < 


Z > 




San Juan ; she was ladylike and educated. Her husband 
had hoped to realize a rapid fortune, and he would, no 
doubt, have been successful in doing so had the Transit 
continued, but with its downfall his hopes were de- 
stroyed. We had some tapir for dinner; it was like tough 
beef, and it would take, I should think, some time to 
acquire a taste for it. We bought some of the meat to 
take home with us, but it was never cooked ; the smell 
was so strong that it was unanimously determined to 
throw it away. Mr. Emmons told me that neither him- 
self nor family have had a day's sickness since coming 
here; and he confirms my opinion that a clean, airy 
house, and a plentiful use of water over the person, is 
the secret of maintaining health in this climate. 

Sunday \ Jan. 29th. — After a few hours' sleep I roused 
up the party, shortly after midnight, and then — stowing 
a good cargo of provender, in the shape of coffee and 
solids, like Major Dalgetty, to be ready for a heavy 
day's work — we pushed off into the stream from the 
foot of the Machuca at 1.30 a.m. The rain was pour- 
ing down in bucketfuls, of course wetting us to the skin 
in a few minutes. Several bongoes were passed, but 
there was only time to get a sleepy, indistinct answer 
to our questions as the canoe shot by. At 4.0, passed 
the river San Carlos, and at 6.15 got safely through the 
Moreno Grande, or great whirlpool, at which we most 
fortunately arrived soon after daylight ; it would have 
been dangerous to have got into the whirl during 
the dark hours. At 8.30 passed the Serepiqui, our 
spirits rising, in spite of our hunger, and drenched, 
cramped position, as we rapidly shortened the distance 


between us and Gorgon Villa. At 10.30 passed Leaf's 
Island, and soon after, the Colorado, leaving it on our 
right. Continuing down the San Juan, the current 
proved sufficiently strong to be a material help, but we 
had some difficulty from the sand-shoals, reaching right 
across the river. In several places the men had to jump 
out and drag the canoe over these shallows. We landed 
once for five minutes at a plantation, and got some 
plantains. Just as our journey was coming to an end, I 
killed a small alligator, about two feet long, and Sewell 
shot a crane, both with bullets. I mention this circum- 
stance, as these creatures proved the sum total of our 
game bag during the whole fourteen days of our absence. 
The following are a few notes on the San Juan arm 
of the delta. The stream is not stronger than one knot per 
hour ; the banks are for the greater part low and swampy 
and difficult to reach, being thickly covered with long 
coarse grass, everywhere growing in profusion ; on the 
swampy lands of this river it is so abundant as com- 
pletely to hide the line of demarcation between the water 
and the river-bank. The trees average a distance of about 
fifty feet from the edge of the grass. The whole of this 
arm of the delta is exceedingly shallow; as mentioned 
above, we had repeatedly to haul the canoe, which cer- 
tainly did not draw two feet, over the many sand-bars 
which obstruct the passage. The bongos in this season 
have, in military phrase, " to cut their way through." 
There are a great number of low alluvial islands, co- 
vered with grass, but only a few of the largest have any 
trees growing upon them. Perry, our padron, assured 
me that he had never ascended the river in the dry 


season, and found it in exactly the same state ; in fact, 
that the silting up and increased difficulty of the naviga- 
tion was very perceptible year by year ; judging by the 
high-water marks, not only the islands, but a considerable 
portion of the land is under water during the wet season. 

After passing the divergence of the Toro and the mouth 
of the San Juanillo we came in sight of the ' Gorgon's ' 
mastheads towering high above the low intervening land, 
and soon after, paddling through, or, rather, grating over 
the shoals which separate the two channels running into 
the harbour, Greytown in all its glory opened to our 
view. As we shot past Colonel Cauty's house, there was a 
visible commotion, waving of handkerchiefs, etc., young 
Mrs. Cauty evidently supposing that her husband was 
with us ; she was however, poor thing, doomed to disap- 
pointment. Just before 3.0 p.m. we paddled up to Gorgon 
Villa in true Carib style, to the great astonishment of 
the Greytownians ; I do not mean from our wild mode 
of approach, — to that they were well accustomed, — but 
at the rapidity with which the voyage to Managua and 
back had been accomplished ; the most experienced of 
the inhabitants having assured me, when starting, that 
it was quite impossible to do the journey in the time I 
proposed ! 

It was with very enjoyable feelings that we crossed 
the threshold of " our villa/' My steward had provided 
a repast tit for a king, to which we lost no time in doing 
ample justice. I am happy to say that no one was at all 
the worse for the hardships and exposure to which we 
had all alike been subjected. 

I cannot close my journal without paying the warm- 


est tribute to my white companions ; the service can- 
not produce finer young fellows : may the best of good 
fortune attend them, wherever they go ! M. Thevenet, 
our guest, proved himself the j oiliest of Frenchmen; 
not a murmur escaped him, although of course he was 
exposed to the wetting, drying, scorching, hunger, and 
thirst, just as much as any of us. Regarding the 
Caribs, they behaved splendidly; I have mentioned 
above their performances, which, I think, will bear 
looking into for endurance and hard work. I am not 
partial to the negro, — his sloth and insolence irritate 
me ; I do not see the joke of his lying under a cocoa- 
nut-tree, basking in the sun, while I have to get bread 
by the sweat of my brow. But these Caribs are a very 
different race ; though black as the ace of spades, they 
are eminently industrious, thrifty, and intelligent, and I 
should be as glad to meet one of my canoe crew as 
I should to meet an old shipmate. A white man, it is 
said, is brother to the negro, but you could not insult a 
Carib more than by hinting at any relationship between 
himself and the African. 

The following is an abstract of the above journey, 
showing the number of miles travelled : — 


In steamer ' Laura Frances ' 100 

In canoe on river 167 

In canoe on lake 210 

On mules 100 

Total ... 577 
Total absence, fourteen days, or an average rate of forty- 
one miles and a quarter per day. 




The project for railway communication through the 
state of Honduras must now be considered. The prin- 
cipal promoter is a clever American, and the subject 
has been before the public some eight years, but with- 
out any beneficial result, except, perhaps, to the pro- 
jector. In describing the line, I shall adhere as much 
as possible to his own words. 

The proposed railway commences at Puerto Caballos, 
on the Atlantic, in lat. 15° 49' N. and long. 87° 57' W., 
and runs nearly due south across the continent to the 
Bay of Fonseca on the Pacific, in lat. 13° 21' N. and 
long. 87° 35' W. Its total length, from anchorage to 
anchorage, is said to be 148 geographical miles, equal 
to 161 statute miles. It lies wholly in the state of 
Honduras, whose territorial right and sovereignty over 
it has never been called in question. Starting at Puerto 
Caballos, it pursues a course a little east of south, across 
the plain of Sula, until it strikes the Rio Ulua near the 


town of Santiago ; thence it follows the valley of that 
river, now called the Humuya, to its very source in the 
plain of Comayagua. 

At the southern extremity of this plain there is said 
to be a slight elevation, which constitutes the " summit " 
between the Atlantic and Pacific. Here the sources of 
the Humuya interlock with those of the Eio Goascoran, 
which stream flows through its proper valley into the 
Bay of Fonseca. 

The Atlantic port is thus described by Lieutenant 
Jeffers, U. S. Navy : — ■ 

" Puerto Caballos is a good harbour, of great capacity, 
sufficient depth of water, and easy of entrance and exit. 
Situated at the base of the hills, there are neither 
marshes nor swamps to affect the healthfulness of the 
locality, which is sufficiently extensive for the formation 
of a large city." 

To confirm the evidence of a responsible naval officer, 
the projector brings forward the testimony of the master 
of a schooner, named the ' George Steers,' who winds up 
his account by stating, that — 

" A gentleman, resident on this coast, and of great 
experience in the winds and weather hereabouts, in- 
formed me that some time back he was voyaging in a 
dory* when the sky, swell, etc., gave unmistakable evi- 
dence of a ' norther,' and compelled him to make 
Puerto Caballos for security. Here he rode out in per- 
fect safety one of the most furious ' northers ' he had 
ever witnessed." 

The magnificent Bay of Fonseca, the western terminus 

* A dory is a small canoe hollowed out of the trunk of a single tree. 


of the proposed road, is beyond dispute the finest port, 
or rather " constellation of ports," on the entire Pacific 
coast of America. It is fifty miles in length, by about 
thirty in average width, perfectly protected, and contains 
two or three large islands, offering inner ports with ample 
water, and admirable sites for towns and commercial and 
manufacturing establishments of all kinds. The three 
states of San Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua, touch 
upon it. Honduras, however, has far the largest front on 
the Bay. The port of La Union, in the subordinate bay 
of the same name, is the principal port of San Salvador. 
Its trade lately amounted to something over 500,000 
dollars, and the revenues to about 100,000 dollars. The 
principal port of Honduras is Amapala, on the island 
of Tigre. It is a free port, and is rapidly advancing in 
importance ; its population and trade having doubled 
within the last few years. 

In calculating the cost of the proposed road, it must 
be remembered that nearly all the materials necessary 
for its construction, as well as for its economic working 
after it shall have been built, are to be found, in the 
greatest abundance, on the line of the road. Timber, 
stone, cattle for draught, and a large supply of avail- 
able labour, may be obtained in the country itself, 
which is also capable of furnishing the amplest sup- 
plies of provisions. Lying in a valley parallel, and not 
transverse, to the watercourses of the country, the 
amount of excavation and embankment on the line is 
comparatively slight. No tunnels are required, and 
there are no cuttings in hard rock. Moreover, the cli- 
mate is such as to admit of the uninterrupted prosecu- 


tion of the work for the entire year, — the rains, during 
what is called the rainy season, never being so heavy as 
to interrupt operations. 

Detailed estimates made, in view of these circum- 
stances, by competent engineers, give the following ag- 
gregates for a road 161 miles in length, with a single 
track of six feet gauge, on a road-bed 22 feet wide in 
excavation, and 16 feet in embankment. 

Summary of Cost. 

Preliminary expenses $90,000 

Extinguishing titles to land 50,000 

Earthworks and excavations 1,932,000 

Bridging 608,750 

Culverts and passages 161,000 

Superstructure 1,347,400 

Stations, wharves, etc 407,000 

Equipment and rolling stock 355,000 

Engineering contingencies, 30 per cent 1,415,345 

Total $6,436,495 

This gives an average cost per mile of not far from 
40,000 dollars. 

It will be said that the opening of the Honduras route 
will induce great competition, on the part of routes 
already established, leading to considerable reductions 
in rates, and consequent diminution of revenue. These 
rates are at present exorbitant, and should be reduced. 
To effect such reduction is precisely one of the grounds 
upon which the promoters of the Honduras route base 
their appeal to the public support. They are confident 
that the saving of time, and consequent saving of ex- 
pense, in running steamers and transporting passengers, 
would enable the Honduras route to sustain the severest 
competition, while paying a fair return on the capital 



Putting the prices to be charged on passengers and 
freight at two-thirds of the prices now charged on the 
Panama road, we have the following summary of the es- 
timated annual business of the Honduras road : — 

Summary of Revenues. 

50,000 passengers at $17 

.... $850,000 

$80,000,000 precious metals, at \ per cent. 

.... 200,000 

English and American mails 

.... 150,000 

72,000 tons express freight at $133 per ton 

.... 266,000 

100,000 tons general freight at $22 per ton 

.... 2,200,000 

Commerce of Central America, 2 per cent, on 

$6,000,000 120,000 

Local travel and trade 

.... 50,000 

Gross Total 

. . . $3,836,000 

Estimated expense of working road . 

.... 600,000 

Government of Honduras 

.... 50,000 

Net Total . 

. . . $3,186,000 

Charter of the Honduras Inter oceanic Railway. 

" The State of Honduras concedes to the said Company the 
exclusive right and privilege of constructing a route of commu- 
nication by water or by railway, across and through, its terri- 
tories, between such points and by such lines as it may find 
feasible and proper, and the right of making free use of such 
ports, rivers, lakes, waters, lands, and natural materials, as may 
be convenient or necessary for such purpose, under the condi- 
tions hereinafter provided. 

" The Company engages to conclude the surveys within three 
years, and to complete said route or road within eight years 
from the date of the ratification of this contract. 

" At the expiration of seventy years, this Charter and the pri- 
vileges which it concedes to the Company shall revert to the 
State ; and the State shall have the right to purchase the road, 
its dependencies and appurtenances, at a just valuation. 

" The Company shall have the right of free passage over and 
through the lands alike of the State, of towns, and individuals, 
for all purposes connected with the construction and working 


of the proposed route or ro-^d, and also the right of occupying 
and holding any portion of the said lands for the space of two 
hundred yards on each side of the line of the road, and also 
such other lands as may be convenient or necessary for the con- 
struction of station and engine houses and other dependencies 
of the road, without the payment of indemnity, except in case 
the land thus occupied shall belong to individuals, in which case 
the Company shall be entitled to occupy and hold them upon 
the payment of such indemnity as may be agreed upon with the 

" The State concedes to the said Company the right to take, 
free of any charge or indemnity, from any of the public lands 
or forests of the State, all the wood, stone, lime, timber, and 
other natural materials, which they may require for the con- 
struction or use of said route or road ; and if the Company 
shall require any of these materials which may be found in or 
upon the lands of individuals, it shall be at liberty to take the 
same upon paying the owners thereof such price as may be 
agreed upon. 

" The State binds itself to facilitate and aid, in every pos- 
sible way, the engineers, contractors, employes, and labourers 
who may be occupied in the explorations and surveys of the 
route, and in the construction of the works of the same ; and 
to this end stipulates that it will not require from the citizens 
of the State who may be in the employ of the Company, a 
rendition of the civil and military service imposed by the con- 
stitution of the State, except in case of great public emer- 

"The Company shall have the right to purchase, in the vicinity 
of the proposed road, an amount of the public lands of the 
State not exceeding five thousand caballerias, at the rate of 
twenty dollars the caballeria, to be paid in the stock of the 
Company at its par value ; and the State makes a free grant 
to the Company of four thousand caballerias, situated in the 
district known as the Coast of Lean, and on the coast of Tru- 
xillo, and extending to the limits of the State. And all these 
lands shall be held by the Company in conformity with the laws 


of Honduras, with tlie reservation to the State of the export- 
able mahogany. 

" It being the object of the concession of lands by the State 
to encourage the establishment of colonies within its terri- 
tories, it is stipulated that such establishments shall be colonies 
of Honduras/ and the settlers in consequence shall be subject 
to the laws of the State in like manner with native-born citizens, 
and shall enjoy the same rights and privileges in all respects ; 
but nevertheless they shall be exempt for ten years from all 
kinds of taxes and contributions, and all public service except 
with their own consent. Each colony shall have at least fifty 
inhabitants, but every individual shall equally enjoy the same 
rights and privileges as soon as he shall be established in the 
country, whether in a colony or otherwise. 

" Considering that it is important that artisans and work- 
men shall be encouraged to establish themselves in Honduras, 
to facilitate the works of the proposed route or road, therefore 
the Supreme Government agrees to concede to such foreigners 
fifty acres each of the public lands of the State, wherever the 
same may be found, provided that they shall declare their inten- 
tion to settle in Honduras, and to become citizens of the same. 
But to be entitled to such concessions, such persons must have 
worked in the construction of the route or road herein proposed, 
and have obtained from the Company a certificate of their ser- 
vices and ability ; and upon presentation of the same to the 
Supreme Government, it shall designate the place where they 
may establish themselves, and where they shall be put in pos- 
session of said lands. To artisans who may come into the State 
with their families, seventy-five acres each shall be granted ; but 
the number of such concessions shall not exceed one thou- 

" When the route or road herein contemplated shall be esta- 
blished and in operation, the Company engages to pay to the 
State the sum of one dollar for each person over ten years old 
who may be transported over the same through the State, or 
from sea to sea ; and upon persons passing from point to point 
within the State, payment shall be made as hereinafter pro- 


11 Signed, sealed, and delivered, in the City of Comayagua, 
this twenty-third day of June, in the year of our Lord one 
thousand eight hundred and fifty-three. 

" Justo T. Rodas. L.S. 

"Leon Alvarado. L.S. 

"E. Geo. Squier." L.S. 

The great fact against this project is that it has ut- 
terly failed in inducing capitalists to engage in the work 
with i my energy or zeal. It will be seen by a refer- 
ence to the date of the charter that the matter has 
now been ventilating for nearly ten years, without the 
least real progress having been made, and therefore 
there must be something wrong. I am inclined to think 
that an objection is taken to the nationality of the pro- 
jector, for there is no denying that the idea forces it- 
self upon the minds of Englishmen more and more every 
day, that, as a body, the citizens of the United States 
are not scrupulously honest nor very particular about 
truthfulness, and therefore projects emanating from 
them are naturally looked upon with suspicion. When 
will Americans, instead of glorying in being "smart" 
find out that honesty is the best policy l I have no per- 
sonal knowledge of either the route or the projector; 
but I was assured when in Central America, by those 
capable of giving a just and impartial opinion, that the 
scheme is impracticable ; and I have since learned in 
this country that if the proposed line ever meets with 
supporters, one of the first things to be done will be to 
have a reliable survey made. Colonel Stanton, R.E., 
C.B., with a detachment of sappers, has examined the 
line, and reports " that the harbours are unexception- 


able, and that the road can be constructed without any 
sharper curves or heavier gradients than are to be found 
on existing lines over which locomotives work without 
difficulty." This report cannot be said to be encou- 
raging. Locomotives " work without difficulty" over the 
Sommering, for example ; yet all Europe know r s the en- 
gineering difficulty and expense of making a' railroad 
over that ground. Von Tempsky, in his 'Travels,' gives 
the following remarks on this subject: — 

" How the steam ' locomotives ' will get over the little 
hills of the interior of Honduras, is a problem that 
American enterprise alone can solve. But there are no 
mountains in this hemisphere over which the stars and 
stripes may not culminate, especially if carried before the 
footsteps of the heroic Squier, as was his wont to have 
them carried on his first journey, as Yankee envoy, 
through Nicaragua and other States, when a standard- 
bearer rode ahead, displaying to the wondering natives 
the star-spangled banner, unfurled, and leading the van 
cf the calvacade." (' Mitla,' by Von Tempsky, p. 428.) 

For this piece of satire I observe in the " Bibliogra- 
phy" of Squier's 'Notes on Central America,' "' Mitla,' 
by Von Tempsky — worthless." 






I shall now proceed to lay before my readers my own 
project for interoceanic commnnication. I have men- 
tioned how my attention first became attracted to the 
subject by the peculiar nature of the service upon 
which I had been employed for some years, and how it 
was riveted upon my mind by subsequent events in my 
professional career, becoming, in fact, a labour of love 
to devote my mental and physical energies to its deve- 
lopment. Very shortly after taking charge at Grey- 
town as senior naval officer, I became convinced that the 
value of that port, both in a commercial and political 
sense, was departing. I think my survey proves, that 
unless from some unforeseen physical convulsion, or the 
most vigorous and judicious application of large sums of 
money to improve the navigation of the river San Juan 
and the harbour of Greytown, the means of transit in 
that direction will soon be closed ; but if any concurrent 
testimony is required, this is given with great weight 


by the action of the inhabitants themselves. These 
good people with unflinching faith stuck to the smoking 
ruins of their town after its complete destruction by 
Commander Hollins, and with indomitable energy set to 
work to rebuild their houses directly the United States 
commander would permit them to do so. The town soon 
arose from its ashes, and the Transit speculation being 
then at its height, increased in a rapid ratio, because it 
paid well. But of more avail than the guns and torches 
of the United States was the silting process going on in 
the port and river, and which was hastened in its destruc- 
tive effect by the bitter rivalry and evil passions of the 
contending factions. The accumulation of detritus has 
now so filled up that arm of the delta which empties 
itself into the harbour, as well as the entire port and 
entrance (over which there is only eleven feet), that the 
ingress of vessels of any size is impossible except at high 
floods, and transit is now struggling for its life. The 
consequence is that the inhabitants are constantly leav- 
ing; indeed, last June not more than 200 remained, and 
that number would have dwindled down to less than 
fifty, had not large quantities of india-rubber been dis- 
covered, the gathering and exporting of which just suf- 
ficed to keep the trade alive. Thus, what cannon and 
conflagration failed to do, nature's work on the harbour 
and river is accomplishing ; and therefore I think it will 
be acknowledged that poor Greytown is going downhill, 
the desertion of the inhabitants attesting the fact that 
"the house is falling." 

Having after careful consideration made up my mind 
that the time had gone by when any practical and remu- 

Y 2 


nerative road across Central America could be opened 
via Grey town, I determined to look elsewhere for a Gate 
to the Pacific, and I must confess that an attentive 
study of the Atlantic coast-line was not calculated to 
give me much encouragement ; for, where the sem- 
blance of a port showed itself, there high mountains 
intervened ; and where the land appeared low, there the 
coast-line offered nothing but an open exposed anchor- 
age, without any sort of shelter. However, one point 
there was, w r hich held out some hope of its being made 
available as the Atlantic terminus of a railroad ; for, be 
it at once said, I never have given any consideration to 
canal schemes, for reasons which I detailed in a paper 
read before the Royal Geographical Society after my re- 
turn from a visit to the Isthmus of Suez, with my friend 
the late Mr. Robert Stephenson, M.P.* Regarding the 
point to which I have alluded, it certainly appeared on 
the chart as only a small projecting headland ; but many 
years' experience in the surveying service convinced me 
that on this account alone I need not despair. By the 
above remark I do not mean to imply that our hydro- 
graphical work is badly done, — on the contrary, it will 
bear comparison with that of any nation in the world ; 
but what I do mean to say is that our surveying opera- 
tions are undertaken with a view rather to delineate a 
large extent of coast-line than to investigate a smaller 
portion of it in a thoroughly complete manner, and there- 
fore many important features are unavoidably over- 
looked ; this, for example, was my own experience in 
the survey of the Bay of Panama, under Captain Kellett, 
* Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society, vol. iii. p. 177. 


in H.M.S. Herald, 1845-51. In this instance every 
energy was bent npon putting in the coast-line, while 
the nature of even such places as the magnificent Gulf 
of San Miguel was left uninquired into; and this at a 
time when the Isthmus of Panama was attracting the at- 
tention of the civilized world, as the spot where the ne- 
cessities of commerce demanded a short cut from one 
ocean to the other. I do not intend to animadvert upon 
the little result of the expedition of the ' Herald' and 
' Pandora.' Our chief was an officer who did not con- 
sider himself justified in exceeding his instructions one 
jot or tittle, and he acted accordingly; but I cannot let 
this opportunity pass without pointing out to the pub- 
lic the unsatisfactory way in which their work is done, 
whereby they lose the real return for their large outlay. 
Better have 20 miles of coast mapped, the interior 
explored, the commerce and resources throughly inves- 
tigated, and the facts stated plainly to our merchants, 
than 200 miles of mere beach re-surveyed and placed 
on the charts. I hope soon to see the day when Cap- 
tains in the Eoyal Navy will be enjoined and directed 
to encourage and assist young officers, by every means in 
their power, in making any explorations or investiga- 
tions which the nature of the service will permit. Such 
a cutting through of the Gordian knot of red tape which 
enchains the noble profession to which I am proud to 
belong, will not only add immensely to the enterprise 
and intelligence of the rising generation, but at the 
same time be the means of bringing to light new fields 
of commerce for our merchants, and new facts for our 
better guidance. 


The opinion I had formed that adequate shelter might 
be found under the lee of the point mentioned above, 
and which is named Monkey Point on the charts, was 
strongly confirmed by local accounts of the place. Mr. 
Michael Quin, of Corn Island, told me that it was the 
best-sheltered bay on the entire coast, and was of capa- 
city sufficient to make a perfect harbour ; it was therefore 
with no small curiosity that I approached it on the first 
opportunity which occurred for making the necessary 
examination. It was an exciting time, as, having a 
fine breeze, I determined to work the old ' Gorgon,' a 
paddle-wheel tub of a craft, drawing eighteen feet water, 
to her anchorage under sail. As we approached, the 
two islands off the point showed themselves, and round- 
ing these the ship shot up to an anchorage in 4^ fa- 
thoms water in a very fine bay, where shipping would 
be as well sheltered from the heaviest of northers as if 
moored in Portsmouth Harbour. It must be borne in 
mind that the northers are the only winds about which 
the navigator need entertain any dread on this coast ; 
every anchorage from one end of Mosquito to the other 
is more or less exposed to northerly gales : this practical 
proof therefore of the existence of first-rate shelter 
was in my humble opinion a most important discovery. 
At this visit I had simply the opportunity of testing the 
capabilities of the Bay, by taking her Majesty's ship in 
under sail ; but on a subsequent occasion I experienced 
the admirable nature of the shelter afforded by running 
in during heavy weather, when the transition from the 
rough sea outside to the smooth and quiet of the an- 
chorage proved the excellence of its shelter. 


Finding that the Bay was not named on the charts, I 
considered I was fairly entitled to christen it after the 
first man-of-war which had really found out its value, 
and consequently called it Gorgon Bay. The east- 
ernmost end, Monkey Point, is in lat. 11° 36' N., and 
long. 82° 45' W., thirty-eight miles due north from 
Greytown. The southern extremity, or point itself, 
is a small rocky headland, thickly covered with trees. 
At the distance of three-quarters of a mile from the 
mainland, and in a southerly direction, there is an island 
called Palmetto, and still further off (about four hun- 
dred yards) there is an islet, for it is too small to 
call an island. Palmetto is about eighty feet high, 
thickly covered with trees, and with a steep rocky face 
seaward; its entire circumference is about one mile, 
and it is fringed with rocks for about fifteen or twenty 
yards all round. At a rough estimate I should say that 
it contains about two hundred acres of land fit for cul- 
tivation. The small cay is not more than a quarter the 
size of the larger, and hardly any of the soil on it can 
be cultivated. It is about forty feet high, with a few 
straggling trees and silk-grass. While Palmetto is pretty 
regular in its outline, the smaller cay is almost divided 
by a deep indentation on its landward side, which might 
be turned to good account in the construction of a dock. 
All that would be necessary would be to join the cay 
to Palmetto by a breakwater, the material for which 
is in abundance all round, while native labour, almost 
amphibious in its nature, is plentiful and cheap. Dock 
accommodation would then be provided equal to any 
emergency. By connecting Palmetto with the main- 


land, the capacity of the Bay would be largely increased ; 
for a swell rolls in between the cays and the point when- 
ever the trade-wind is well to the eastward, and this 
renders it prudent for vessels to anchor further off than 
they otherwise would. The cost of such a breakwater 
would be trifling, and the steamers might lie alongside, 
and so discharge their cargo and disembark their pas- 
sengers into the railway carriage itself. The mainland 
is thickly wooded, and rises to an average height of 
about 150 feet. The eastern end of the Bay is cut 
up by several rocky projections, forming little indenta- 
tions, or coves, in most of which excellent fresh water 
is found. In the north-western part there is a sandy 
beach, nearly a mile long : here the land is low, but 
it is effectually drained by a rivulet at one extremity, 
and a small river at the other, up which I went in 
the dingy some four or five miles, until it became 
shallow and intricate. Off the mouth of the small 
river there are two more cays, both of diminutive di- 
mensions, but capable of being turned to useful account. 
The remainder of Gorgon Bay is for the most part 
sandy beach, which continues as far as Little Monkey 
Point, where the land takes another turn and forms a 
similar indentation, but without affording any adequate 
shelter. This second bay may be said to terminate at 
Rama river, about eight miles S.W. of Monkey Point. 
The Rama* is the southern boundary of the Mosquito 

* The Rama river " has five feet water on the bar, but it generally 
breaks. This river is reported to flow upwards of eighty miles, and is 
navigable to a considerable distance by the canoes of the Eama Indians, 
whose settlements reach far in the interior. There is also a small village 
just within the mouth on the right bank. The Rama Indians were formerly 


reservation, according to the terms of Sir Charles 
Wyke's late treaty. It prohably runs in an E.S.E. di- 
rection ; but this is simply conjecture, as no scientific 
exploration has yet been made : all that I have to guide 
me in this belief is that the neighbouring rivers under 
analogous circumstances, for example, the Escondido, 
pursue such a course, and take their rise in the broken 
range of the Cordillera, which does not, as far as can be 
judged from the sea, anywhere intercept the view to 
the westward, that is towards the Lake of Nicaragua. 

All the information which I possess about the Rama 
river is derived from native accounts, and the observa- 
tions of Mr. Carman, mate of the ' Laura Frances ;' from 
the former I learnt that the stream is sluggish, and that 
the- nature of the land is undulating, with a good deal 
of savana in the vicinity. Indians constantly pass be- 
tween the river and San Miguelito, on the Lake of Nica- 
ragua, and therefore their account ought to be correct. 
The latter confirms the above statement, particularly 
as regards the strength of the current; Mr. Carman 
went up the river prospecting, having been led to be- 
lieve that gold could be picked up on its banks in any 
quantity. He found the stream deep and slow, and he 
told me he had particularly noticed that nothing re- 
markable in the shape of hills was observable in any 
direction. The party with which he was connected 
took no pains to ascertain the course of the stream, nor 
the height of the extreme point reached. Their object 

very numerous, but in 1820 they were said not to exceed 500, and they 
pay tribute to the King of Mosquito. They are considered mild, inoffen- 
sive, and faithful, and are most expert in the management of their canoes." 
('West India Pilot,' 1861, vol. i. p. 253.) 


was gold; and as it did not drop into their pockets, 
they returned to Grey town. I place reliance on the 
statement of Mr. Carman regarding the absence of hills 
of any magnitude, because the very nature of his oc- 
cupation would compel him to study the topography 
of the country, and therefore it is not likely that he 
can have made any mistake in this matter. I have 
been thus particular in relating all the information 
I have gathered about this river because, as I shall 
presently show, it will probably play an important 
part in the project I shall soon lay before my read- 
ers ; before doing so, however, it will be necessary to 
give some description of the hydrography of Gorgon 
Bay. It so happened that I was pressed for time, and 
therefore my survey was by no means an elaborate one. 
The work was necessarily rough — a mere sextant 
sketch; but Mr. Armstrong and myself satisfied our- 
selves as to the real capabilities of the bay. We 
found by our soundings that it was free from shoals or 
rocks of any description ; that the bottom shelved very 
gradually towards the land ; that the holding ground 
was excellent, a tenacious mud; and that the landing 
was unexceptionable. Moreover, the point and adja- 
cent country offered very favourable conditions for set- 
tlement, the soil being of first-rate quality, free from 
swamps, and only requiring clearance to enable the 
trade-wind to blow over every part, without meeting 
any obstacle to obstruct the free ventilation of the 
houses. I have already mentioned the abundance of 
good wholesome water, and I do not know what more 
could be wished for, in the formation of a thriving jxlace 


of business ; a practical proof of the value of the an- 
chorage may be adduced from the logs of the steamers 
belonging to the Koyal Mail Packet Company, the di- 
rectors, with the sanction of the Post-Office authorities, 
having ordered their captains to anchor there when 
conveying the Greytown and Blewfields mail. 

An essential point in the construction of a transit 
route is, that the terminal ports should be good ones. 
I have shown the capacity of that on the Atlantic side, 
"Gorgon Bay ;" and before describing the manner in 
which I propose to connect the two oceans, I will take 
my reader to the Pacific, and point out what terminal 
accommodation is to be found in that direction. Ni- 
caragua possesses on this side two harbours of the 
most unexceptionable character, besides one or two 
minor ports, more or less useful; of the former, Pealejo 
and a portion of the Gulf of Fonseca are the localities 
to which I allude ; of the latter, San Juan del Sur af- 
fords the best anchorage, and has been long used for 
transit purposes. The Gulf of Fonseca has been briefly 
described in the last chapter ; but as it is not intended 
to approach it, there will be no necessity for any further 
account. The harbour of Pealejo is the Pacific terminus 
of my proposed interoceanic communication. I am sorry 
that I cannot give a description of this beautiful and 
safe port from English official sailing directions. I fear 
such do not exist, at all events • I have been unable to 
find any ; however, the omission has been well supplied 
by French surveyors,* and what with a translation 

* ' Reconnaissance Hydrographique des Cotes Occidentals du Centre 
Amerique,' pp. 42, 46. Paris, 1854. 


of some of their remarks, a short account written by 
the English Consul for Belcher's ' Voyage round the 
World,' the admirable sketch of Sir William Ouseley, 
and the Admiralty chart, I do not despair of conveying 
to my readers some idea of the nature of this first-rate 
Pacific terminus. 

" The little town of Eealejo, which gives its name 
to the port, is six miles from the inner anchorage. It 
serves as an entrepot to Chinandega, a pretty town, con- 
taining 4000 or 5000 inhabitants, and which divides 
with Granada all the commerce of Nicaragua. 

" Realejo has a population of about 1200, mostly 
employed in attendance on the shipping or carrying on 
the commerce of the port, which has greatly increased 
in importance since it became a calling-place for steamers 
running between Panama and San Francisco. 

"The port of Eealejo is formed by the estero of the 
same name, and that of Dona Paula, into which fall the 
rivers Realejo and Telica; it is sheltered from wind and 
sea by the islands Asserradores and Cardon, also by the 
promontory of Castanon, between which there are two 
channels leading into an inner basin, having soundings 
from five to nine fathoms, and which is surrounded by 
low land. 

" The perfect tranquillity of the anchorage offers faci- 
lities for every kind of repair ; there are even beaches, 
upon which, as it were upon a natural gridiron, vessels 
may be placed ; the only real inconvenience is the dis- 
tance from Realejo, and the necessity of tiding there in 
the conveyance of merchandise. 

" Of the entrance, one passage, Barra Falsa is be- 


tween the south end of Cardon and Point Castafion, its 
greatest breadth hardly exceeds three cables, its least 
one. This channel ought only to be navigated with a 

" The safest as the deepest channel is that of Cardon, 
between the island of the same name and Asserradores." 

In Belcher's ' Voyage round the World,' vol. ii. p. 307, 
the harbour is thus described : — 

" Cardon, at the mouth of the port of Realejo, is 
situated in lat. 12° 28' N., about long. 87° 12' W. It has 
two entrances, both of which are safe, under proper pre- 
caution, and in all weathers. The depths vary from two 
to seven fathoms, and good and safe anchorage extends 
for several miles ; the rise and fall of tide is eleven feet, 
full and change three hours and six minutes. Docks 
or slips therefore may easily be constructed, and timber 
is readily to be procured of any dimensions. Wood, 
water, and immediate necessaries and luxuries are plen- 
tiful and cheap. The village of Realejo is about nine 
miles from the sea.* Its population is about a thousand 
souls ; the principal occupation of the working males 
is on the water, loading and unloading vessels. . . . One 
branch of the river, Doha Paula, takes a course towards 
Leon and is navigable to within three leagues of that 

Although Realejo will be the Pacific port of the 
transit, yet as a measure in the interest of the share- 
holders it will probably be necessary, in the first place, 

* This distance is no doubt due to the dread the Spaniards entertained 
of the buccaneers in the seventeenth century, who sacked the original 
city, then containing 15,000 inhabitants. These daring freebooters even 
built a fort in the harbour, the ruins of which may still be seen. 



to use the port of San Juan del Sur for that purpose, 
because a temporary line to that place could be opened 
for traffic in one-third the time requisite to complete the 
railroad from ocean to ocean. I have therefore considered 
it advisable in this place to introduce a small plan of the 
anchorage, taken from " Cotes Occidentales du Centre 
Amerique (Nicaragua). Carte des atterrages de Salinas 
de San Juan del Sur au Cap Elena, dressee d'apres les 
ordres de M. le Contre-Amiral Bonard, commandant- 
en-chef la station des Cotes Occidentales d' Amerique, 
par MM. Boucarut, lieutenant de vaisseau, et Lefevre, 
aspirant. Corvette la ' Constantine,' commandee par M. 
Huguet de Majoureaux, capitaine de vaisseau. 1859."* 


Scale of Geotf & Mies 

The above is a facsimile of the coast-line delineated 
by the French surveyors ; but I have altered the scale to 

* Depot des Cartes et Plans de la Marine, 1860, No. 1953. 


English miles, made the longitude to correspond with 
our own by reducing it to the meridian of Greenwich 
and changed the soundings from French metres into 
English fathoms. 

This interesting little port is almost unknown to the 
seamen of this country ; indeed, even now the community 
at large appear to be doubtful of its existence. I have 
heard it gravely questioned whether there ever was 
such a place, and the voyage of H.M.S. Sulphur has 
been relied on to prove that even a surveying vessel had 
failed to give a plan of it to the world. This, as I have 
shown above, in the case of San Miguel, is not an iso- 
lated instance. Nevertheless I cannot help mentioning, 
in proof of the accuracy of English surveys, that at the 
point where the work of Captains Barnett and Belcher 
touched, close to San Juan del Sur, the one coming from 
the Atlantic, the other the Pacific, there only existed 
a difference of 32" of latitude and 10" of longitude, al- 
though each was quite a distinct expedition, having no 
connection whatsoever. I trust the sketch taken on the 
spot by Sir William Ouseley,* and the French plan of 
the anchorage, will be sufficient proof that a veritable 
port really exists. There never would have been any 
doubt on the matter had our information been derived 
from reliable sources ; but it has now become a settled 
belief with Europeans, that American accounts must be 
received with caution, the old-fashioned term Munchau- 
sen having been superseded by the new appellation, an 

* The frigate in Sir William Ouseley's sketch is the famous 'Merrimac,' 
which lately made such hav^oc in Hampton Roads and was afterwards de- 
stroyed at iSTorfolk, Virginia, to prevent her from falling into the hands of 
the Federals. 


Having now given an account of the means of in- 
gress and egress, the Gates as it were of this part of the 
New World, I will proceed to describe the route which 
I hope, ere long, to see in use as a great highway of 
nations. I mentioned above that I did not contemplate 
the joining together of the two oceans by means of a 
canal. That such an idea is a great conception can- 
not be denied; but in my opinion it would practically 
be one of the greatest failures of the age ; it would in 
reality be a return to the stage-coach travelling of a for- 
mer period, for time, not distance, has now become the 
true measure of space ; and it must be borne in mind 
that for a sailing vessel, the time occupied from England 
to India would be longer, via a canal through Nicaragua, 
than it would be by a voyage round the Cape of Good 
Hope. However, it is of no use pursuing this theme, 
as I believe even the French at Suez have at last opened 
their eyes to the fallacy of canalization as a means of 

My proposal is to connect Realejo and Gorgon Bay 
by means of " the iron road;" the trains running from 
alongside the wharf in the one port, to a position close 
to the ocean steamer in the other, thus embarking and 
disembarking passengers and freight, with an ease and 
rapidity far superior to the accommodation afforded 
either at Suez or Panama, where it is necessary to reach 
the shore in boats, take the train, and re-embark in 
either small steamers or barges, before the transfer from 
one ocean steamer to the other is completed. To con- 
struct a railway from the Atlantic to the Pacific, by the 
route I have designated, would require some four or fi\e 


years to finish ; but it would not be necessary to wait 
until then before a passage from sea to sea could be 
effected. The completion of the section, from the At- 
lantic to San Miguelito, would suffice for the immediate 
opening of a temporary line, as from there passengers 
and goods could be conveyed by steamer, across the Lake 
of Nicaragua, to Virgen Bay, whence a fine macadamized 
road, thirteen miles in length, well bridged and levelled 
as much as possible, has already been constructed to San 
Juan del Sur, on the Pacific. There would be several 
changes, it is true ; but still those changes would not 
be so many as the passengers make on the River San 
Juan transit, which nevertheless at one time attracted 
more than half the traffic from the Panama Railway, 
and proved perhaps one of the best-paying undertakings 
of the day. 

I shall now describe the nature of the country, over 
which the railroad would pass ; and in doing so, I shall 
divide the line into five sections, and treat each sepa- 

The First Section, commencing at the Pacific side, 
would be from Realejo to Leon, the ancient capital of 
Nicaragua. The country is most beautiful, disclosing a 
constant succession of fresh views ; everywhere palms 
and flowers, oranges and plantains, line the road, which 
runs through a perfectly level country the entire dis- 
tance, except close to Leon, where the land is slightly 
undulating. The road is excellent ; even the heavy ox- 
waggons and tropical rains having failed to cut it up. 
The distance from the wharf in the port of Realejo 
to Leon is about seventeen miles, and there is not a 



single engineering impediment the whole way ; the soil 
is a black loam, about six feet in depth. 

The Second Section would be from Leon to Managua, a 
distance of forty miles. The road here would pass over 
ground, not, it is true, so continuously flat as the preced- 
ing section, but nevertheless of so favourable a nature, 
that probably not even a single cutting would be required. 
This portion also is extremely fertile, and more thickly 
populated than the first section, the line running through 
the small towns of Pueblo Nuevo, Nargorote, and Ma- 
tiares, the latter in lat. 12°14'N., long. 86°43'W. 

The Third Section is the shortest, only fifteen miles, 
and extends from Managua across the river Tipitapa. 
Here again nothing but a level country presents itself; 
but, unlike the previous portion, it is almost uncultivated, 
chiefly from want of water, the Lake of Managua being 
the only certain source whence that necessary element 
can be drawn. It need hardly be said, however, that 
the infusion of a little enterprise, with even a rude 
system of irrigation, would speedily convert this space 
into a series of cultivated fields and valuable plantations. 
Crossing the river Tipitapa would of course involve a 
bridge, and this would be the first occasion for such a 
structure ; at the same time it would be but a small spe- 
cimen, as a point might be chosen where the stream is 
only of inconsiderable breadth. 

The Fourth Section would closely border on the 
eastern shore of the Lake, from the river Tipitapa 
to the hacienda of Pedronal, or the village of San Mi- 
guelito, an average distance of eighty miles. Pedronal 
would probably be the Lake terminus ; but that cannot 


be stated with certainty until the last section is marked 
out. The principal feature in this part of the proposed 
route would be the number of small streams which must 
be crossed, and over which it would be necessary to con- 
struct bridges : of these at least eleven, perhaps fifteen, 
would be required ; but their dimensions would not pro- 
bably in any case exceed a single span. In other respects 
the line would run over an undulating savana country, 
requiring no clearance, and for the most part low and 

The Fifth Section. — We now come to the last and most 
difficult part of the undertaking, viz. from about Pedro- 
nal to Gorgon Bay, the Atlantic terminus, — a distance of 
seventy-three miles. This portion has never been scien- 
tifically explored, much less surveyed, and, as stated above, 
I have only for my guidance the native reports, Mr. 
Carman's account, and certain physical facts, such as the 
regularity and force of the trade-wind on the Lake of 
Nicaragua, corresponding to its action in the Caribbean 
Sea ; thus showing that no high land intervenes to ob- 
struct its uninterrupted passage from one ocean to the 
other; and, the elevation of the Lake itself, which is 
only 138*3 feet above the Atlantic. These facts may be 
taken for what they are worth ; but for my own part, 
after some practical acquaintance with both sides of the 
section, I am inclined to think that no engineering im- 
pediment of any importance will be met with in the in- 
terior ; in point of fact, that an easy gradient might be 
marked out over the entire distance. 

I have now endeavoured to give a plain practical 
description of the nature of the country over which 

Z 2 


I propose to construct a transit route. It will be seen 
that 152 miles of that line will be laid down over ground 
offering no impediment whatever to the engineer ; and 
that the only difficulty rests with the remaining portion, 
a difficulty which will vanish, like all other imaginary 
obstacles, directly it is grappled with. The entire length 
of the line, 225 miles, will be best understood by the 
reader, if I compare it with some familiar distance in 
our own country, such, for example, as that between 
London and Darlington, on the Great Northern Bail- 
road, and which is accomplished by the slowest trains in 
less than twelve hours. 

Gorgon Bay, the Atlantic terminus of the new route, 
would speedily attract a large population to its shores, 
and I propose to make it a free port, open to the com- 
merce of the whole world, and untrammelled by any 
narrow regulations calculated to restrict its full use- 
fulness. With the commencement of the town-buildings 
a church should be erected, and schools established, then, 
with the blessing of the Almighty upon the undertaking, 
there can be no fear for the result. By spreading out 
the basis of the project in this manner, and founding 
it upon a rock, to what may it not aspire % Every mile 
the iron road penetrates into the country will be a 
positive gain to civilization ; while those strong moral 
and religious feelings inherent in every Englishman, 
and which more than anything else have elevated Great 
Britain to her present pitch of greatness, would be fos- 
tered and encouraged, instead of, as is too often the case 
in foreign lands, dying out altogether. Thus, by be- 
ginning in the way I have indicated, there would be 


every hope, from the example of the new-comers, of 
forming the new community upon the best and purest 
principles and of thoroughly reclaiming the aboriginal 
Indians, instead of irretrievably demoralizing them. I 
am as morally certain as man can be, that the misfor- 
tunes and misery brought upon all connected with the 
Greytown Transit resulted entirely from their dense 
moral blindness and utter want of truth ; and I think, with 
such a lesson before us, it would be an act of insanity 
not to take every precaution to prevent the proposed 
settlement falling into a similar Slough of Despond. 

To make my railway project succeed beyond the 
mere twenty per cent, which it will return to the 
shareholders, it is necessary to encourage immigration 
to this favoured land by every legitimate means. The 
republic offers land to the colonist on easy and advan- 
tageous terms ; and besides, when a Company is formed 
to carry out the transit, it will have many extensive al- 
lotments to dispose of. But perhaps of more practical 
value than either of the above considerations, is the fact 
that the entire Atlantic terminus is already secured : it 
is the absolute property of the writer of these pages ; 
and he can only say, that so convinced is he of the vast 
importance of a good start to any embryo community, 
that he has dedicated the first plot of ground for 
church and school purposes; and hopes to see this 
small beginning, this thin edge of the wedge, split to 
pieces the anarchy and confusion, bloodshed and rob- 
bery, ruin and devastation, which have characterized 
beautiful Nicaragua for the last forty years. 

I have given a full account. of the climate in a former 


chapter : now for the soil. I think it is impossible to 
exaggerate the value of the land, both of Mosquito and 
Nicaragua, if only for agricultural purposes. As regards 
Mosquito, I do not hesitate to say, that it is, both from 
position and adaptability, the finest country for the 
growth of cotton in the entire world. Some description 
of it will be found in a preceding chapter ; but as I did 
not then especially enlarge upon the many advantages 
it possesses for the growth and export of that valuable 
product, I will do so in this place. The entire strip of 
land, 150 miles in length, now appertaining to the King 
of Mosquito, is for the most part low, and possesses a 
soil of exuberant fertility. It is ventilated from one end 
to the other by the prevalent north-east trade-wind, 
which blows with some force, and carries with it those 
saline particles from the sea, without which it is useless 
to attempt the cultivation of some kinds of cotton, — 
the Sea Island for example. Moreover the land is so 
formed that it rises inland with a gently undulating slope, 
— another point of great value to the successful growth 
of the plant. In short, soil, atmosphere, and indeed all 
the physical requirements necessary to the cultivation of 
millions of bales of cotton, here reach the highest per- 
fection. Moreover, when it is borne in mind that along 
the coast of Mosquito, and on the numerous islands ad- 
jacent to it, the plant is not an annual as in the United 
States, but, on the contrary, a shrub which yields year 
after year a steady crop, requiring little care or attention 
to bring to maturity, it must be admitted that a field is 
offered in this locality highly remunerative alike to cul- 
tivator and consumer ; and, what is of great importance, 


the staple would be obtained from a country which, 
from its proximity to England, could successfully com- 
pete with the South-grown cotton of the United States, 
and thus, as far as human means can do so, render us in- 
dependent for the future. 

I wish it to be distinctly understood that in this 
matter I am not venturing upon any theory : the state- 
ments I have made above are matter of fact. I have my- 
self seen the cotton shrubs, — I might almost say small 
trees, — both on the islands and the main, the remains 
of the plantations abandoned in 1848, when the eman- 
cipation of the slaves was summarily and without the 
least notice decreed by the Government. The cotton 
is of the finest quality, and its cultivation might be re- 
sumed on the largest scale, particularly as there is no 
reason to fear any lack of labour, as the Carib labour- 
ers, whom I propose to introduce for the construction 
of the railway, will bring with them their wives and 
children, who are as hard-working and industrious as 
their husbands and fathers, and would, I am convinced, 
undertake the care and culture of the plants. When it is 
remembered that, in six months from the date of sowing, 
a crop might be gathered and sent to Lancashire, I think 
it will be acknowledged that here is the solution of the 
difficulty, which is now absorbing the attention of high 
and low, rich and poor, — I mean, a cotton-famine. 

Perhaps some explanation of my remark about the 
proximity of Mosquito will be necessary in this place. 
The first glance at a map of the world would not satisfy 
the casual observer on this point ; New Orleans and the 
Cotton States of America appearing to be much nearer 


England. But such is not the case, and for this reason — 
the Gulf Stream bars, as it were, access to New Orleans 
by the direct passage, for it runs with such force be- 
tween the Bahamas and Florida that sailing vessels at 
all events would not attempt that course on their out- 
ward voyage, but rather make a detour and pass either 
between Cuba and Hayti, which is not quite prudent, 
or between Hayti and Puerto Rico, which is safer. If, 
then, from either of these two points of departure the 
distance is measured on the map, it will be found that 
Mosquito holds a more favourable position than New 
Orleans ; and not only so in actual distance, but the na- 
vigation itself is far less hazardous, on account of rocks, 
shoals, currents, and the hurricane track. Ships bound 
to Mosquito could make a clean run from the Mona pas- 
sage, with almost an impunity from any danger, and quite 
out of the path of those destructive storms, which, while 
they devastate the West Indies and the places bordering 
on the Gulf Stream, have never yet been known to visit 
the Mosquito Coast. In the exportation of cotton, the 
above favourable circumstances would act beneficially in 
two ways : — first, in a decided diminution of the cost for 
freight, as compared with that now paid between New 
Orleans and Liverpool ; and secondly, in the lesser rate 
of insurance which would be demanded on ships voyag- 
ing to Mosquito, because the navigation would be more 
safe than that encountered in following the boisterous 
u stream " through the Gulf of Mexico. This, I take it, 
is the real point at issue, in determining in what direction 
we shall Ox our attention for obtaining a future supply 
of cotton. Quantity and quality being equal, there is no 


doubt, cost of freight would turn the balance in favour 
of that locality which can transfer its bales from the 
plantation to the hands of the consumer at the cheapest 
rate. And here I ought to mention that Mosquito stands 
unrivalled for her means of inland transport. Intersected 
by numerous rivers running at right angles to her coast- 
line, the easiest means is thus afforded, by which loaded 
flats or barges could bring the produce to the sea ; 
while an inland system of lagoons, extending parallel to 
and but a short distance from the ocean, would enable 
the planter to forward his bales for shipment from any 
part of the country at the cheapest possible rate. 

With all these advantages, why should not Mosquito 
compete successfully with New Orleans % And she will 
do so at no distant day : the only fear I have is that it 
may not be in English hands, or even in English interests. 

Having now sketched out a future, easily attainable 
and quite within the reach of Mosquito, I will proceed 
to show how and in what manner the land bordering on 
either side of my proposed highway of nations may be 
turned to good account. In the first place, it cannot 
be too clearly pointed out that the transit I advocate 
must, from its very nature, be totally unlike that at 
Panama, which has neither roads intersecting it, nor 
local traffic. Nicaragua, on the contrary, in addition 
to the healthiness of the climate and the choice of tem- 
perature which is afforded by the diversity of its surface, 
occupies a grand commercial as well as geographical 
position, such indeed as no other country can command. 
Native produce pours in from the north and from the 
south, while foreign commerce would constantly arrive 


from the east and from the west and find here an entre- 
pot on both the Atlantic and Pacific. Directly the high- 
way is opened, the commerce of San Salvador, Guate- 
mala, and Honduras on the north, and Costarica on 
the south, must concentrate within this favoured state 
as it did of yore. 

As mentioned above, the country between Gorgon 
Bay and the Lake of Nicaragua has not been sufficiently 
explored to permit me to enter into details regarding 
its capabilities; but enough is known to enable me to 
point at all events to one well-known article of export 
which may be obtained in any quantity, I allude to 
mahogany.* This valuable tree here attains a con- 

* The mahogany-tree flourishes between the 1.1th and 23rd parallels of 
north latitude ; it attained to great perfection in Cuba, Hayti, Jamaica, 
Puerto Rico, and the Bahamas, but the supply from that quarter is now 
becoming scarce. On the Mainland, the Honduras, and Mosquito, maho- 
gany is deservedly held in high commercial favour ; and as regards the 
southern part of the latter country, vast supplies still exist, which can be 
easily and cheaply got out from the forest. Mahogany was first used in 
ship-building by Cortez about 1530, but it was not imported into England 
until 1724. (For account of its introduction see Lunan's ' Hortus Jamai- 
censis.') The tree is one of the most majestic and beautiful in the veget- 
able world, and requires at least 200 years to arrive at maturity. The 
season for cutting commences in August, its leaves at that time assuming 
a yellowish-red hue, easily discernible, from an eminence or the top of 
a tree, to the quick -sighted Carib hunter (as he is called) who leads the 
gang of wood-cutters, with unerring sagacity, to the patch or clump which 
he has selected. Mahogany works as freely, and bends as readily, as 
English oak. It is stiffer even than teak, and in the present day would 
prove the best wooden backing to our iron ships, for the following rea- 
sons : — 1. Shot does not splinter it like teak, but, on the contrary, the pro- 
jectile buries itself in the fibre ; moreover the durability and firmness of 
the wood is well known, offering a better resisting medium. 2. Metals do 
not corrode so rapidly when in contact with it as with other woods ; such as 
teak, for instance ; a chemical analysis having proved that " a decoction of 
its chips or shavings had hardly any chemical reaction, and scarcely affected 
iron and copper." 3. Economy : the sale of mahogany planks when a ship is 


siderable size, and is therefore proportionably valuable ; 
and moreover we have a broad and deep river, the 
Eama, by means of which rafts could be at once floated 
to the sea within eight miles of the shipping port. Here, 
then, is an enterprise certain and safe, which might be 
opened up, and which, while it would enrich those en- 
gaged in it, would at the same time clear the land in 
the vicinity of the railway, ready for the settlement of 

On and about the next section, skirting the border 
of the Lake, I should consider the best locality for set- 
tlement. Here there are hundreds of thousands of 
acres of the finest pasture-land, on which vast herds of 
cattle might increase and multiply in sufficient numbers 
to stock the market with hides, and supply the fleets of 
the world with salt and preserved meat ; while, at various 
degrees of elevation, there is ample room for farms, ham- 
lets, villages, and towns to spring into existence. The 
savana land is bounded at the northern extremity of the 
Lake by Alto Grande, a huge mountain 3000 feet high, 
clothed to its very summit with grass, and upon which 
alone, choosing any degree of temperature, thousands of 
people now struggling for a bare subsistence in their 
own country might find happiness and plenty for them- 
selves and children. Again, to the eastward, the broken 
range of the Cordilleras approaches within twenty 
miles of the line marked out for the railway, and con- 
broken up from old age, or from the necessity of a reconstruction of the 
navy, realizes a profit on the original outlay, the wood having become 
harder and more suitable for the cabinet-maker, from its age ; beautiful 
furniture has been made from' H.M.S. Gibraltar, built of mahogany at 
Havana, more than a hundred years ago. 


tains within itself the accumulated treasures of untold 
ages. The best authorities on this matter declare that 
the Chontales Mountains are second to none in the 
world for the richness of the mineral deposits buried 
in their strata; and this is proved by the quantity of 
gold annually brought to the towns by the rude un- 
tutored Indian, in spite of his curiously primitive method 
of extracting the precious metal. Nothing is wanting to 
enable men to realize large fortunes from the above 
source, but the opening of roads, by which machinery 
could be conveyed to the gold-bearing districts; for at 
present there are merely the rudest paths, along which, 
in some places, it would be rash to proceed without a 
guide, and over which it would be impossible to convey 
the appliances necessary for crushing the ore. 

These two sections, comprising about 160 miles in 
length, may be said to be comparatively unoccupied ; one 
moiety, viz. the land between the Atlantic and the Lake, 
is so entirely, with the exception of some settlement of 
Rama Indians, who are prepared to welcome English set- 
tlers, and who would be found most valuable auxiliaries ; 
the other moiety, viz. the country bordering on the Lake, 
is inhabited by a few herdsmen, whose ranchos number 
about twelve, and are scattered at wide intervals along 
the shore; the only village is that of San Miguelito, 
described in my journal; So that there would be no 
impediment whatever, — on the contrary, every induce- 
ment, — to the rapid settlement of the country by Anglo- 
Saxons. The land is at present valueless in a money 
point of view ; but the mere fact of laying down the iron 
road would convert it into property which would com- 
mand a high price in the market. . 


The remaining sections of the proposed railway would 
run through land more or less occupied by- the natives 
of the country. Their interests would be so manifestly 
advanced by the undertaking that it would command 
the cordial approbation of all classes; and ground 
would be granted free of cost to the Company, so as to 
ensure the line passing through the respective properties 
of the various land-owners. Seldom, indeed, has any 
project been undertaken which could at the outset offer 
so many guarantees for its successful accomplishment. 
Every sort of material which can be required in the 
construction of the work is at hand in abundance, — 
labour, provisions, timber, stone, etc. ; and all that is 
necessary will be to introduce the manufactured iron 
for the tramway, and the ready-made iron or wooden 
houses to form the stations and settlements. Labour 
is abundant and cheap, and of the very best quality : 
I allude to the Carib inhabitants of Honduras, the Bay 
Islands, and Mosquito. These men will bear comparison 
with any labouring population in the world for endu- 
rance, capability for work, faithfulness, and orderly be- 
haviour. I have had some experience of their good 
qualities; and I have never heard but one opinion as 
regards their excellent character, both from residents 
and visitors to the coast. They would be of the great- 
est value on the section between the Lake and the 
Atlantic, as they are acknowledged to be amongst the 
best woodmen in the world. At the present moment, 
owing to the abandonment of the Bay Islands and Mos- 
quito, it would be easy to settle some thousands of 
these men, with their wives and families, in the vicinity 


and along the line of the railway. Their chief occu- 
pation has been mahogany-cutting ; but, from the cause 
just mentioned, the trade is declining, and numbers are 
consequently out of employment. They speak English 
and Spanish, a great addition to the value of their ser- 
vices. Their numbers are variously estimated, it being 
almost impossible to arrive at the exact amount, owing 
to their migratory habits, entire families removing to 
that part of the country which affords the most work ; 
but the Carib mahogany-cutters alone cannot be less 
than 6000 men. These people would without hesitation 
form settlements along the present Mosquito country if 
proper inducement was offered to them ; and then, while 
the men were engaged on the works of the railway, 
women and children could attend to the cultivation of 
cotton in the vicinity of their various villages. I have 
made careful inquiries into this matter, and can an- 
swer for its practicability. The pay of these men is on 
an average 2s. per day, with rations consisting of pork 
(salt) and biscuit. The native Indian would not cost 
much more than half that sum ; but then he would not 
labour half so well as a Carib, to say nothing of his not 
being accustomed to the peculiar work (road-making), 
in which the latter is especially skilled. For instance, 
the roads, which it is necessary to construct for the con- 
veyance of the mahogany to the water, are often some 
miles in length ; they must be levelled as much as pos- 
sible, carefully grubbed, and bridges built across the 
small rivulets. The blocks of timber are conveyed on 
trucks drawn by oxen, and any inequality in the road 
would be fatal to progress ; but this rarely happens, for 


the Carib appears to have an instinct for the selection 
of easy roads ; he is, in point of fact, a black Macadam, 
brought up from his boyhood to the work, and unri- 
valled in it ; in short, the man of all others most useful 
in the construction of a tropical railroad. The maho- 
gany-cuttings are generally carried on by gangs of men 
who work by contract. The average amount of work 
performed by one man per day is a cutting thirty feet 
wide by about a hundred and fifty feet in length ; that 
is to say, that a gang of ten men could cut, clear, and 
grub nearly two miles in a week ; or, in other words, a 
hundred men would form a good substantial mule-road 
from Gorgon Bay to the Lake of Nicaragua in one month. 
The Caribs construct their huts with incredible quick- 
ness, thatch them with palm-leaves, hang up their ham- 
mock, light a fire, fry their pork, and make themselves 
quite at home in no time. A strip of calico round the 
loins is their working-day suit, but on holidays they 
come out in gorgeous apparel. 

I have gone carefully into the matter of estimates 
both for railroad and colony, and append statements of 
cost, not, as will be seen, depending upon my own ex- 
perience in these affairs, but seeking and obtaining the 
best information in my power. In addition to the value 
of the practical and business-like part of Mr. Griffin's 
letter, so much interest must be attached to his prelimi- 
nary remarks by the general public, that I consider any 
excuse for the insertion of the entire correspondence 
quite unnecessary. I take this opportunity of stating 
that my intention in writing this book is not simply to 
lay my proposals before those only whose especial busi- 


ness it is, to deal with such matters, but to endeavour 
to place the subject in as clear and practical a manner 
as I possibly can before the great body of my country- 
men, so as to leave it with them to judge whether the 
undertaking and carrying out of such a transit project 
as I propose, in the interest of England, would tend to 
advance the commercial and political position of the 
country ; in other words, whether it would pay them to 
embark in it, and therefore, by the force of public opi- 
nion, compel those who now govern this land, and who 
appear to find a difficulty in initiating any independent 
action of their own (either for the benefit of the nation 
at home, or to advance its true interests abroad), to open 
their eyes to the true aspect of affairs in Central 

The words of Mr. Cobden at Eochdale, reported in the 
4 Times ' of October 25th, 1862, are pointedly applicable 
to the present occasion, and may here be repeated and 
re-urged. Mr. Cobden said, " What was wanted was 
that the discussion of this question should be forced 
upon the Government {Liberal) from our own stand- 
point, our own point of view ; that we should insist that 
gentlemen should not tell us what was said in the time 
of Grotius, but look at and deal with the [question] as 
it exists. A great many of our public men and leading 
writers came from college into public life deeply read 
and well learned in the history of Athens, but knowing 
sadly too little of what was actually occurring around us." 




I shall now lay before my readers an estimate of the 
cost of constructing a single line of rails from Eealejo 
to Gorgon Bay; and, in the first place, I shall introduce 
Mr. Griffin's letter, to which I particularly wish to 
draw attention. I ought however to state that the plan 
proposed by Mr. Griffin is not new in its principle; 
the iron sleepers and hollow supports having been used 
by Mr. Robert Stephenson in the construction of the 
railway from Alexandria to Cairo with signal success, 
as described in my paper on Suez, already alluded to.* 
Mr. Griffin's plan however is so great an improvement, 
not only upon the old one adopted in Egypt, but upon 
the present railway system generally, that it may almost 
be said to be a new invention. 

* Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society, vol. iii. p. 174. 

•2 A 


" New Adelphi Cliambers, John Street, W.C., 
" January 12th, 1863. 

" Sir, — No one who has for a moment studied your proposal 
for a new and independent route which would connect the At- 
lantic and Pacific, can fail to be struck with the immense im- 
portance of the subject. It would indeed be a matter reflecting 
little honour on a maritime and commercial nation such, as we 
are, to continue dependent upon our present rivals in trade, 
and possibly our future enemies on the ocean, for the only 
means of transit to our colonies and possessions. We ought 
unquestionably to have a direct highway in our own hands, be- 
yond the control of any other Power whatever. I trust that 
the important work you have undertaken will be carried out to 
completion, and that it will redound not only to the advantage 
and glory of our country and its commercial interests, but also 
to the high honour and substantial benefit of yourself, as the 
originator of, and labourer in, so important a work. 

Jn reply to the questions contained in your last favour, rela- 
tive to the cost of the ' permanent ways' now in use, and my 
railway in particular, I would just, en passant, remark that it 
was scarcely possible to invent a more complete misnomer 
than that of ( permanent way ' as applicable to the very defective 
system which has hitherto been adopted iu the construction of 
most of the railways in this country. The many fatal accidents 
that have happened to the public from this cause are sufficiently 
well known, — not to mention the loss of rolling-stock, the 
claimed compensation, the law expenses, and other charges 
which the railway companies have had to bear from these de- 
fects ; but these losses, considerable though they have been, and 
causing a serious deduction from the dividends of the subscri- 
bers, form, after all, but a small part of the very expensive out- 
lay which the companies have had to bear, not only in the first 
cost of the line, but in the rapid deterioration of material, and 
the continued and costly expenditure of labour in keeping the 
said ( permanent way' in repair. Truly it should have been 
called the ' consumptive way.' 


I need not remark to one of your profession that iron is 
stronger than wood, and that it is more durable under certain 
conditions. I believe that the time is not distant when every 
railway in the kingdom will be laid upon iron sleepers, in- 
stead of wood; at least, it will be so if the directors study 
their own interests, and the interests of those whose property is 
committed to their care and management. Were I required to 
enumerate all the defects of the prevailing system of wooden 
sleepers, chairs, fishplates, wood keys, iron spikes, bolts and 
nuts, screws, trenails, etc., the task would be difficult, for their 
name is ' legion -/ but I may mention a few of the most pro- 
minent. , 

" In the first place, where the traffic is considerable, fresh 
sleepers have to be laid every two years (average for renew- 
ing the whole line, about seven) ; the wedges, 7000 to 8000 in 
every two miles, are drawn out by the contraction and expan- 
sion of the rails from temperature and the vibration of passing 
trains, the enlargement of the holes of spikes and bolts, and the 
loosening of nuts and screws ; besides which, the chairs oscil- 
late to and fro, and destroy the aplomb of the rails ; the fish- 
plates become loose, and jump up and down with the attached 
ends of the rails at every passage of a wheel. These, and many 
more than these, are defects which it is easy to remedy by a pro- 
per system. Then consider again the labour and cost of men 
daily employed (six to every two miles of road) in inspecting, 
screwing-up, driving-up, and tightening every wedge, twice a 
day; upon the integrity or failure of any one of which, the lives 
of hundreds may depend ; resetting displaced and sunken sleep- 
ers ; the trouble and time employed in shifting the rails ; and 
from the great number of separate parts — from 26,000 to 30,000 
in a single mile ; the consequent loss of material — in itself a 
very serious item ; add to this the original expense of the l per- 
manent way/ • the time required to place it in position, and 
some idea may be formed of the immense outlay which must be 
occasioned. Having for many years been interested in railway 
matters, a knowledge of these facts led me to study the subject 
deeply; and, after gleaning the opinions of many of our most 

2 A 2 


eminent practical engineers with whom I have been thrown in 
contact, upon the advantages and disadvantages of the various 
systems that had been tried, it led me to invent what I style 
the ' Economic System/* and which, where it has been tried, 
has given the most unqualified satisfaction, and has been found 
to combine advantages as to economy, stability, and permanency, 
which no other plan hitherto adopted is known to possess. I 
give you an extract from a letter addressed to me by an eminent 
engineer of one of our large metropolitan lines, bearing testi- 
mony to the efficiency of my plan ; and I challenge the whole 
profession to produce so secure, durable, and economical a line. 
He says, l In answer to your inquiry I have much pleasure in 
saying that up to the present date your permanent way has 
fully borne out the good opinion I at first formed of it. The 
traffic is so heavy at this spot that our rails are ordinarily re- 
newed every seven or eight months, whereas those fixed on 
your sleepers have already been down that time, and appear as 
perfect as ever/ As a proof of the rapidity with which my sleepers 
can be laid down, and the rails fixed, an inspector of another 
metropolitan line declared, in the presence of several eminent 
engineers, that he could lay down five or six miles of my rail- 
way while he was laying down one under the ordinary system, 
and that when down it required no further attention. In re- 
ply to your first question, as to c the weight per mile of my railway 
complete/ I have given you the weights, number of pieces, and 
present price of a mile of road, using a rail of sixty pounds per 
yard, on my own system ; and also, for the purpose of compa- 
rison, the weight, number of pieces, and price of a mile, upon 
the system now in use ; by which you will see that in the article 
of material alone, there would be a saving (including all royal- 
ties) of £563. 9s. in money, upwards of 20,000 loose parts, and 
106 tons of weight, in every mile of single way. 

* The accompanying plate will give some notion of the simplicity of 
construction of Mr. Griffin's railway ; and from it also an idea may be 
formed, by the uninitiated reader, how rapidly a line so made may be 
jointed and laid down over any gradient. 


' '1 Mi 



" Ordinary System. 
95 tons : 440 rails, 60 lbs. per yard, at £5. 10s. per ton . £522 10 

70 „ 3,520 chairs, at £4. 2s. U. per ton 288 15 

7 „ 1,004 fish-plates, at £11 per ton 77 

110 „ 1,760 cross-tie sleepers, 10 x 5 X 9, at £5. 10*. per 

load 605 

3 „ 3,520 wood keys, at £5 per thousand 17 12 

3| „ 7,040 iron spikes, at £14 per ton 49 

2 „ 2,008 bolts, -\ 

2,008 nuts, C at £20 per ton 40 

2,008 washers, ) 

2 „ 3,520 trenails, at £5 per thousand 17 12 C 

292| „ 26,828 loose parts. £1617 9 

" Economic System. 

95 tons : 440 rails, 60 lbs. per yard, at £5. 10*. per ton . £522 10 

80 „ 2,008 sleepers, at £4. 5*. per ton 340 

Q\ „ 753 tiebars, at £7 per ton 45 10 

5 „ 3,514 iron keys, etc 46 

186£ „ 6,715 loose parts. £954 

Koyalties, shipping charges, etc. .... 100 


"'''Having already alluded to the durability, saving of labour, and 
security, specially appertaining to my railway, I need not again 
refer to it. I would therefore, in reply to your second question, 
as to the ' price for a rail over which the locomotive would not 
be required to travel more than twenty miles an hour, and 
principally for passengers/ observe, that, as the permanent 
way varies not only according to the requirements of the traffic, 
or weight and size of material employed, but with the market - 
price of such material, and which is constantly changing, I 
could only give you an approximation as compared with the 
prices above stated, by saying that a lighter rail, — such, for in- 
stance, as one of fifty pounds, — would cost so much less in pro- 
portion to its weight than the heavier one ; but that it would not 
be desirable very materially to diminish the weight and conse- 


quent strength, of the sleepers and tie-bars, upon which must 
depend the security of the whole, the weight of the rolling 
stock being nearly the same, although the speed be diminished, 
and thereby the wear and tear lessened. 

" Being aware of the serious depredations on railway mate- 
rials in India and other foreign countries, the result of the mul- 
tiplicity of small detached parts, and more especially in a system 
of iron permanent way which has been very extensively used, 
and the patent for which has now expired, I have for a very 
considerable period devoted my attention to the manner of 
forming sleepers so as to dispense with chairs altogether ; and 
have consequently effected a saving, as before stated, of up- 
wards of 20,000 separate pieces in every mile of road, and at the 
same time combined extreme simplicity with the arrangement. 
The fastenings are so securely locked that no one who is not 
provided with the key required for the purpose can remove any 
portion ; but with the key, the parts can be separated in a mo- 
ment, as only four distinct pieces are used in the construction. 

The least intelligent person can put the line together, and it 
can be laid on cleared ground with gradients as steep as those 
of any railway in this country ; moreover, when so laid, it is 
immediately ready for use, and possesses any amount of elasticity 
which may be required, besides making less noise and vibra- 
tion, and affording an easier motion in travelling than on any 
ordinary transverse-sleeper road. Requiring no skilled labour, 
I cannot but think it peculiarly adapted for such communica- 
tion as you propose, twenty men being sufficient to lay down 
your whole line as fast as the land could be cleared. The cost 
of such road, complete in every respect, delivered free on board 
ship, would not exceed £1100 per mile of single way. I shall 
be happy to supply for this sum such a line as I feel sure would 
answer every requirement of your engineer ; but if it should be 
deemed more desirable to give out contracts for public com- 
petition, there would be my royalties in addition. The total 
weight of your line, complete, would be about 187 tons per mile 
of dead weight. You may have a cheaper line, but not of such 
weight as I should recommend for a really permanent way. 


" The following information on the subject of bridges, from 
one of the largest and most eminent engineering houses in that 
particular line of business, will answer your last question ; and 
any further information that you may require and it is in my 
power to give, I shall be most happy to afford. 

" And remain, Sir, yours faithfully, 

" George Featherstone Griffin, C.E. 

" Captain Bedford Pirn, B.N., 

"Junior United Service Cluh." 

Copy of a Letter from, Messrs. Head, Ashby, and Go. 

" Teesdale Iron Works, Stockton-on-Tees, 
"November 5th, 1862. 

" Sir, — I had your letter of the 4th this morning. I find, 
from carefully going into the matter, that we can make 
wrought-iron plate girder bridges for a single line of road, in- 
cluding cross girders, at £4. lbs. (say four pounds fifteen shil- 
lings) per foot run, for bridges up to 50 feet span, and £5. 5s. 
per foot run for similar ones up to 70 feet span. You must add 
a margin to this to cover contingencies, and a liberal one for 
freight, as they are rather awkward for shipping. It is almost 
impossible to quote per foot run for cast-iron bridges, as the 
weight will vary so materially for every foot of increased span. 
As a guide, however, we can make them, including face girders, 
parapets, and hand-railings, for £5. 15s. per ton all round; this 
of course only applies to straight girders, and not to such ones 
as Southwark and Westminster. Trusting that this may be of 
service to you, 

' ' I am, yours faithfully, 

(Signed) "J. Ashby. 

" To G. E. Griffin, Esq., C.E." 

Taking Mr. GrifSn's statement for a basis, we have 
the following estimate : — 


Railway complete per mile £1,100 

Bridges* „ 300 

Stations , . . . . „ 50 

Carriages, trucks, locomotives, rolling stock .... „ 1,500 

Surveying, engineering, clearing, etc „ 350 

Freightage, insurance „ 500 

Electric telegraph „ 30 

Contingencies ,, 170 

Total cost per mile „ £4,000 

That is, a sum of £900,000 for the entire line. Add to 
this, five per cent, on the proposed capital, viz.£ 1,000,000, 
for preliminary expenses, leaving the same sum for the 
temporary line, and it will be seen that this magnificent 
undertaking may be accomplished at a cheaper rate 
than would be at first supposed; and why should it 
not 1 The great cost of our English lines has resulted 
from exorbitant law-charges and fabulous prices paid for 
the land, both of which would be avoided in the case 
of the Mcaraguan Railway. Then, again, why should 
we not profit by the great experience which many years' 
acquaintance with the working of railways in various 
parts of the world has brought home to us, and by this 
means avoid the errors and improve the improvements 
of our predecessors ? In short, it is time that the " iron 
road," the most powerful wedge for opening up new 
countries, and thus spreading civilization, the world has 
ever seen, should no longer be trammelled with the 
artificial chains by which it is bound, in the shape of 
lawyers, grasping landowners, greedy contractors, et hoc 

* This calculation is based on the number required for the Panama 
railroad ; but it must be remembered that for seventy miles, from Eealejo 
to Tipitapa, there will probably be neither cuttings, bridges, nor any 
work whatever, beyond laying the rails on the road. 


genus omne. If it was fairly put on its mettle, people 
would be astonished at the profitable nature of railway 
undertakings ; and the future progress of civilization 
would surprise every one by the wonderful ratio of its in- 
crease. Refer back to the account of the Panama Rail- 
way as a proof how cheaply the line might be managed. 
Perhaps £1,000,000 sterling may, in the eyes of some 
individuals, appear an awful sum ; but I would especially 
draw attention to the fact that this money will not be 
invested on a mere conjectural undertaking, but in one 
having some basis to start from ; I allude to the con- 
cession of land which will be granted by the Nicara- 
guan and Mosquitian Governments to a company formed 
for the purpose of making the transit. The amount of 
waste lands to be conceded ought to be at least 400,000 
acres for the purpose of colonization alone.* Then 
after laying down the line, the accumulation of sur- 
plus land will in itself be considerable, and doubtless 
fetch a high price for town lots, while the possession 
of the entire Atlantic harbour is alone a mine of wealth. 
In short, I think there cannot be a doubt that if judi- 
ciously managed, the land would become a source of 
profit of no inconsiderable magnitude, equal in value 
to at least one-half the proposed capital. While on 
this subject, I will just allude to the question of colo- 
nization. It will be unnecessary to enlarge upon the 
numerous advantages which present themselves for the 

# By the colonization decree of Nicaragua, dated the 23rd of November, 
1855, each immigrant could obtain a holding of 250 acres, and after six 
months' residence secure the title. A family was allowed to have a hun- 
dred additional acres, and all implements, live-stock, etc. etc., admitted 
into the country free of duty. 



consideration of the immigrant. I have gone into that 
matter in a previous chapter, where the inducement the 
country, its climate, and its producing powers offers to all 
classes of colonists, from the capitalist to the working 
man, has been described ; but I think the proposal of the 
Emperor of the French, with certain modifications, might 
be adopted with the most satisfactory result ; as he truly 
says, it is not alone sufficient to offer a fine climate and 
prolific soil to the intending immigrant; other induce- 
ments, in the shape of a free, or at all events a cheap, 
passage for himself and family, a weather-tight habita- 
tion, and a sufficiency of food until he is able to gather 
in his own crop, must be held out to him, and easy 
terms made for the gradual purchase of the land, and 
the repayment of the cost of housing and of maintenance. 
It is astonishing how cheaply this might be done. For 
instance, a man and his family could be settled in Cen- 
tral America as under : — 

re money £10 

Land, 40 acres, at 5-s 10 

*House (wooden) containing two rooms, 22 feet by 10 

feet, thoroughly weather- tight 30 

Freight for ditto 500 

Provisions for six months for 3 persons 21 

Contingencies 400 

Total outlay for establishing and supporting immigrant 

family for six months £80 

* These houses are made with double boards having inodorous felt or 
waterproof canvas between them, and are therefore perfectly weather- 
tight ; the roofs are shingled and felted, the windows are glazed, and the 
doors well hung and latched. Wooden churches complete, cost about 23-s. 
per sitting. An ordinary labourer can put up these buildings, exact direc- 
tions and a model being forwarded with each. The fullest information 
can be obtained from the builder, Mr. Eichardson, 99, Euston Eoad, Lon- 
don, N.W. 


Thousands of poor families, upon the assurance of so 
fair a start, and the guarantee of support for the first 
six months, would gladly try their fortune in Nicaragua, 
and their presence would be of incalculable value to the 
country, as well as to the company. The £80 might be 
looked upon as a loan, to be paid off in ten years by 
yearly instalments of £8, plus five per cent, on the 
whole sum, until the entire debt was liquidated ; that 
is to say, £12 per annum; this obligation might be 
cancelled by a certain amount of labour in the service 
of the company ; by which means pressure on the im- 
migrant would be avoided, while the company would 
reap a handsome money-profit, to say nothing of gain in 
other respects. This plan is of course a crude one, and 
no doubt susceptible of many improvements and some 
reduction in the expenditure ; nevertheless it contains 
the germ of a project by means of which a healthy in- 
fusion of new blood might be poured into the veins of 
Nicaragua, which is a country that only requires such a 
spur to stand out in bold prominence before the world. 

Let us now consider the sources of revenue and pro- 
fit which will fall into the hands of those possessing 
such a transit as I have proposed. In the first place, 
I would impress upon the reader the fact that a route 
through Nicaragua is not a new project, subject to all 
the risks and blunders incidental to first efforts in any 
undertaking, but that it has been practically ascertained — 
even with all the disadvantages resulting from repeated 
changes from river-boat to lake-steamer, and thence to 
land-carriage, with the attendant discomforts and risk 
upon each transhipment — to be popular with the tra- 


veiling public ; in proof of which I append the following 
statement, taken from the New York custom-house re- 
turns for the year ending March 16th, 1856, — a year, 
be it remembered, in which the uncertainty of political 
affairs in Nicaragua must have influenced many to take 
the Panama route, as the safer of the two : — 

California passengers, via Panama .... 27,283 
„ „ via Nicaragua . . . 24,568 

This is simply the number of passengers from the port 
of New York alone, and has no reference to the thou- 
sands of travellers from other parts of the United 
States, and from the various European nations. In- 
deed, this preference cannot fail to be always the case ; 
for passengers, mail, treasure, and light freight, will 
be irresistibly attracted to the shortest and quickest 
means of transport ; and even by the rough passage, so 
to speak, improvised, from ocean to ocean, through 
Nicaragua there is a gain of one day and a half* over 
that by the Panama railway ; therefore, when it is con- 
sidered that the railroad I propose will run across from 
ocean to ocean without a break ; that the facilities for 
embarkation and disembarkation will be unrivalled; that 
in reaching the northern ports a saving of many hun- 
dreds of miles over Panama will be effected ; that the 
actual sea-voyage will be shortened at least four days ; 
that the climate is healthy, scenery magnificent, and all 
sorts of provisions abundant and cheap, — the very oppo- 
site of which rules at Panama, — when all this is thought 

* The time occupied in the voyage from New York to San Francisco, 
as shown by official tables in 1855, is the following : — Average passages, 
via Panama, 24 days, 9 hours ; via Nicaragua, 22 days, 22 hours. 


of, I do not think it is too much to say that three- 
fourths of the present traffic across Panama will be di- 
verted to Nicaragua. Of course all the trade of the south- 
ern ports, such as Valparaiso, Callao, Payta, Guayaquil, 
and Buenaventura, will seek the speediest route for 
their traffic ; and that must be via Panama, which has at 
least three days' advantage over Nicaragua in all com- 
munication with the southward. At present, an Ame- 
rican company is straining every nerve to occupy the 
River San Juan route. Their privileges expired on the 
19th of October, 1862, unless they succeeded in passing 
over 500 passengers. It is just a question whether they 
have not forfeited their charter, because they cannot 
keep open a regular river communication ; although, no 
doubt, passengers have been forwarded from ocean to 
ocean, on the very day, or at all events within a few 
hours of the time stipulated : but, with true American 
sagacity, this was done simply to keep a hold on the 
transit, and the period of highest water on river and 
harbour was seized upon to pass the passengers across. 
Every exertion is now being made to gain time, so as to 
decide what is best to be done ; money without stint 
is wanted to ensure keeping the river navigation open, 
and the question is — can it be obtained % I mention this 
fact to show the value our American cousins place upon 
the Nicaraguan route ; but even supposing their transit 
could be made a reliable one, it would in no way affect 
the one I propose, the superior comfort and speed of 
w T hich is beyond question. 

By the financial statement of the Panama Railway 
Company, for the year ending 31st December, 1860, it 
appears that — 


The gross e rnings from 31st Deccember, 1859, to 31st 

December, 18(i0, amounted to $1,550,875 

Deduct interest on bonds and liabilities, running ex- 
penses, including materials, repairs, subsistence, la- 
bour and office expenses 617,104 

Clear profit. . . $933,771 

Now three-fourths of this sum may fairly be laid down 
as the amount which would be immediately earned by 
the proposed railway, that is to say, a sum of $700,329, 
or £145,902 sterling, which would be at the rate of nearly 
15 per cent, upon the calculated outlay of £1,000,000; 
but in addition to this a large increase may fairly be ex- 
pected: — 

1st. From British Columbia and Vancouver Island,* 
to which rising colonies such a means of communication 
is of the last importance, as at present the obstructive 
policy of America retards its advance, and indeed checks 
our commercial growth altogether in the Pacific; its 
present position, therefore, is no criterion of what it 
will become directly ; a rapid means of access is opened 
by the mother-country. f 

* The two colonies of British Columbia and Vancouver Island may be 
said to be still in their infancy. The total white inhabitants hardly exceed 
15,000, while the exports and imports are but little more than half a mil- 
lion, but with the ample resources at the command of the settlers, civili- 
zation must advance with rapid strides. Gold, silver, copper, and coal, lie 
in untold quantities in the territory. 

f In Mayne's 'British Columbia,' pp. 357-8, it is stated that the great 
drawback to the Panama route " is often experienced in the fact that there 
is no certainty of finding a Pacific steamer ready to sail, and that very 
often the traveller has to stop at Panama a week or ten days." 

By the way of New York, Captain Mayne states that " the traveller 
may have to stay a few days (at New York), but this is better than waiting 
at Panama, the great advantage of this line being that it is connected with 
the Pacific Mail Company's steamers to San Francisco, and therefore there 
is no chance of being kept eight or ten days on the Isthmus," — in other 


2nd. It is by this route that the commerce of the 
teeming millions of Japan would be fostered and brought 
in a steady stream to our warehouses; and moreover to 
the North of China the Nicaraguan transit would also 
be a boon of great value, as it is by far the best means 
of communication with that country. 

3rd. From local traffic, for it must be remembered that 
the line passes through the heart of the country, and 
Central America contains nearly 3,000,000 inhabitants, 
and vast resources, only waiting the introduction of en- 
terprise and energy to be developed in a remarkable 

4th. The gain in time over any other route between 
England and New South Wales or Queensland, is very 
considerable ; for instance, the shortest passage to Syd- 
ney is at present fifty-five days, via Gibraltar and the 
Isthmus of Suez, but by my route it could be done with 
ease in forty-four days, and no navigation in the world 
can compare with that of the Pacific for fine climate 
and beautiful weather ; in fact, it is the sea of all others 
for rapid passages, so that comfort, safety, and speed 
may be relied on, — a combination not attainable else- 

All the advantages of the existing steam-line via the 
Isthmus of Suez are enjoyed by Melbourne ; Sydney 
and Brisbane being necessarily behind in the commercial 
race, so that no doubt that section of Australia would 
gladly avail itself of the proposed route. It will hardly 

words, we may go through if we avail ourselves of the entire American 
line of transit, but that England does not possess any certain means of 
reaching our colonies in a given time. 


be believed, that at this moment there is only one mail 
a month to our most important colony, and a short 
time ago, during the period of uncertainty occasioned 
by Captain Wilkes's invasion of the ' Trent,' even that 
lengthy interval was increased by the breaking down of 
one of the postal steamers between Ceylon and Aus- 
tralia, by which all communication was cut off with the 
mother-country about two months, during the crisis with 
America ; and the Australians left in the most alarming 
state of uncertainty, whether war might not be raging 
between Great Britain and Federal America, and whe- 
ther the first intimation of such an event might not be 
a bombardment similar to that meted out to Grey- 
town. Again, the loss of the ' Colombo ' has brought 
home to us still more recently the weakness of the link 
between the mother-country and her principal colony ; 
and one is at a loss to conceive how the Australians can 
be so blind to their own interests as to continue with us, 
when they would gain so much by setting up for them- 
selves. I heard the other day, at the Royal Geographical 
Society, a discussion on this matter, in which it was ex- 
pressly stated that a severance from our colonies would 
be very unwise ; and the speakers, mostly governors or 
officials, said they had never heard the idea seriously 
proposed in the country, one gentleman going so far as 
to say that such a notion would be scouted in Aus- 
tralian society, although it is notorious that Dr. Lang, the 
Member for Sydney, introduced a motion with the ob- 
ject of effecting a separation from England. The meet- 
ing to which I allude was a crowded one, and as the 
other side of the question did not transpire, we cannot 


be said to know the real Australian views on the 
subject ; the fact is, that governors, officials, and others 
connected with the Government, like all the rest of 
the world, no doubt, firmly believe " there is nothing 
like leather." The Australian society, in which the ex- 
cellencies and the magnates of the land shine, it may 
be presumed, is far too polite to tell them that their room 
would be preferred to their company ; but to suppose 
for one moment that the main body of the people are 
not aware that they could do their business better and 
cheaper without brokers, and that the supineness of the 
mother-country is neither more nor less than a heavy 
clog upon their progress, is absurd. No doubt we should 
have cause to regret the severance of our colonies, — we 
should be the real losers by it;* but the most preju- 
diced observer must admit that we are doing our best 
to cut the connection, and the wonder is, that Australia 
has not left us long ago. As I stated in the first chapter of 
this book, the surest way to knit our dependencies to us, 
and retain their commerce when they become powerful, 
is to keep open the most rapid interchange of ideas and 
commodities ; and this I hold to be strictly the duty of a 

* The imports and exports of the Australian Colonies for the year 1861, 
exclusive of gold, amounted to — 

Exports £23,163,080 

Imports 26,742,686 

Total . . £49,905,766 

As regards gold, it was discovered in Australia in 1851, when £907,113 
was produced ; in 1855 this sum swelled into £11,513,230 ; and since then 
there has been a steady increase. 

The passenger traffic is very considerable : for many years it has not 
fallen below 50,000 per annum, but the average for the last ten years 
is nearer double that amount. 

2 B 


Government caring one jot for the interests of the com- 
munity. Is a monthly communication with Australia the 
way to do this ? The Peninsular and Oriental Company 
have offered to convey the mails once a fortnight, but 
the official mind, with infantile simplicity, still remains 
in its swaddling-clothes of red tape ; and any post may 
bring us the news that the Australian Parliament has 
determined to stand the humbug no longer. 

The loss of the ' Colombo ' brings home to our minds 
certain facts in connection with the route by which at 
present our communications with Australia are kept up, 
via the Isthmus of Suez. It is uncertain ; it is trying to 
the constitution ; it necessitates repeated changes before 
reaching the journey's end. A great deal of boisterous 
weather, with its attendant risks, may be expected. The 
terrific heat of the Red Sea and many variations of tem- 
perature, trying enough to healthy persons, but often fatal 
to the delicate, must be encountered ; while not less than 
six changes vid Marseilles and four via Gibraltar, be- 
tween England and Australia, increase the wear and 
tear to both body and mind in no slight degree. Never- 
theless this line is eminently useful, and will probably 
continue the chief means of communication with the 
West and South of Australia ; but to New South Wales, 
Queensland, and other districts on the eastern side* of 
this fifth quarter of the globe, the quickest postal ser- 

* The growth of our new colonies in this part of the world is wonderful, 
and it ought to be the earnest aim and effort of every true statesman to 
knit them to us " with hooks of steel." In 1851, the colonies of Victoria, 
Queensland, and Tasmania had no existence ; of the former there was only- 
one rude hut at Ballarat, and within a radius of forty miles of that place 
the population did not exceed 500 persons ; in 1861, Ballarat contained 


vice must be via the Central American Isthmus; and 
no doubt the jealousies and asperities between the Mel- 
bourne and Sydney sections might be put an end to by 
this opening of the proposed western route, and which, 
by an arrangement with its eastern contemporary, ought 
at least to ensure to Australia a semi-monthly, if not 
a weekly mail, by simply running alternately. For in- 
stance, news dated at the beginning of the month would 
reach Melbourne first by the eastern route ; then a mail 
dated at the middle of the month would come to hand 
earlier at Sydney, which would thus take its turn. Con- 
flicting interests might in this manner be reconciled, the 
entente cordiale of the entire community re-established, 
and our Australian relatives brought nearer home, — a 
consummation surely not unworthy the earnest con- 
sideration of any statesman truly loving his country. 

Of the excellence of the ports on the eastern side of 
Australia, it will not be necessary to say one word ; their 
capacity, safety, and the facility of ingress and egress, 
are well known, — indeed, the advantages of Sydney Har- 
bour are proverbial; but of another colony it will be 
proper to give some description, for of all places it will 
benefit most largely by opening a western route, — I 
allude to New Zealand.* These islands have been called 

22,111 inhabitants, whilst the population of the area mentioned above 
nearly reached 106,000 persons. There are now 600 miles of railway and 
500 more in progress, about 900 places of worship, the same number of 
public and private schools, a university, public library, museum of arts, 10 
savings-banks, several hospitals and asylums, — but not a single workhouse, 
— in a territory bigger than the British Isles. A full share of this prosperity 
is sure to reach the mother-country, if she will only open such a route 
as will enable it to travel safely and speedily to us. 
* Nothing can prove more forcibly the rapid progress making in 

2 B 2 


the Britain of the South, and a more appropriate title 
could not have been conferred upon them; they are 
indeed Old England at the antipodes, having, curiously 
enough, exactly the same superficial area, and it does 
not require much foresight to predict their future glory 
and greatness. New Zealand is one of the youngest 
children of the mother-country, and has been hitherto 
the most neglected, but will notwithstanding become 
the flower of the flock ; insular position, fine climate, 
magnificent harbours, unbounded mineral and vegetable 
wealth, sufficiently indicate its prosperous future : all 
that is wanted is a steady supply of the Anglo-Saxon 

the importance and wealth of New Zealand than the following state- 
ment : — 

In 1840, the total European population of the colony was 2050, in 1850 
it was 22,108, in 1860 it was 83,919 ; and at the close of the year 1861 
the Registrar- General states it to exceed 101,000. 

In 1853 the value of the imports was £597,827, and in 1860 they had in- 
creased to £1,547,783. In 1853, the exports amounted to £303,282, and in 
1860 they were £588,953. By the latest accounts received in this country, 
the value of the imports in the quarter ending June, 1862, was £976,518, 
against only £484,762 in the corresponding quarter of 1861 ; while the 
exports for the same periods were £662,177 and £229,299 respectively : 
making a difference of £432,878 in favour of the quarter in 1862. 

In 1853, the ordinary revenue of the colony was £80,103, in 1860 it had 
increased to £231,298 ; that for the Province of Auckland alone having 
been respectively in the two years £36,395 and £72,364. 

In 1853, the number of ships that cleared inwards was 238, of a total 
tonnage of 65,504, and in 1860 the number was 397, of 140,222 tons. In 
the former year, 229 vessels, of a total of 62,891 tons, cleared outwards ; 
in 1860, the number being 398, of 140,393 tons. 

In 1860, 237 vessels, of a total of 8473 tons, were registered, against 
186 vessels, of 6662 tons, in 1857. 

From 1853 to 1860, the quantity of wool exported increased from 
1,071,340 lbs. to 6,665,880 lbs. 

Recent accounts from the colony state that the quantity of gold shipped 
from New Zealand since its discovery there, a period of sixteen months, 
was 516,483 ounces, of the value of £2,065,932. 

Vartcent/ Broolcs. Txtiv. 


element, and in no way can this be effected with such 
ease and certainty as by shortening the road over which 
such a supply has to travel. 

The line of great circle sailing between Eealejo and 
Sydney, passes close to the Northern Island ; by devi- 
ating a few miles from this course, steering round the 
southern end of Great Barrier Island,* and making the 
harbour of Fitzroy the port of call, a stream of popu- 
lation and wealth might be poured into New Zealand 
which would spread from one "extremity to the other, 
and amply reward the mother-country by increase of 
commerce alone. 

Port Fitzroy, the inner harbour of Port Abercrombie, 
is unexceptionable ; the largest ships can enter and de- 
part at any time, as will be seen by the accompanying 
plan. The entrance is two cables' lengths in width, 
with a depth of more than twenty fathoms. One 
writer states that " Port Fitzroy is a magnificent har- 
bour, well sheltered from all winds, and surrounded on 
all sides by the most beautiful and romantic scenery, 
much resembling that of some of the lakes of Cumber- 
land and Westmoreland. The great depth of the har- 
bour near its centre is a disadvantage, but there is 
abundance of good anchorage ground in the numerous 
bays surrounding it." Another informs us that " Port 

* Great Barrier Island is 23 miles long, contains about 70,000 acres, and 
is situate at the mouth of the Gulf of Hauraki, at the head of which is 
Auckland, a distance of 55 miles. From a recent report by Mr. Heaphy, the 
Provincial Land Surveyor, we learn that the most valuable portion of the 
island lies round Ports Fitzroy and Abercrombie, and is owned by the 
Great Barrier Company, who have established several farms, which are 
succeeding well. The island is valuable on account of its forests of kauri 
timber, its metallic lodes, and its secure harbours. 


Fitzroy is one of the finest harbours in the world, per- 
fectly easy of access, and sheltered from all winds." Its 
situation at the mouth of the Gulf, in the direct track 
of the capital, Auckland, is such as to make it a very 
desirable port of call for the mail steamers employed in 
the proposed route, — indeed, the terminus in New Zea- 
land, which lies within the shortest line of passage, is 
undoubtedly the Great Barrier Island, where there is 
every facility for coaling and obtaining supplies, if ne- 
cessary, and the detention of the mail steamers might 
be made of the most trifling nature. 

I must now proceed to sum up. Not another word 
need be said as to the necessity and value of rapid and 
frequent communication with our colonies and commer- 
cial marts, for the present state of affairs in the Western 
world is absolutely barbarous, and suicidal to our best 
interests. The advantages to be derived from opening 
a new route across the Pacific are thoroughly under- 
stood in Australia and New Zealand,* where the colo- 
nists would be only too glad to avail themselves of the 
facilities offered. The same applies to British Colum- 
bia; and our merchants in London can quite well judge 
of the result of a closer intercourse with Japan and its 
millions of inhabitants. I therefore estimate the follow- 

* Since writing the above it has transpired that the Postmaster-General 
of New Zealand has arrived in England, charged with power, in con- 
junction with the Agent for New South Wales, to conclude a contract for 
carrying out a project for a steam line via the Central American Isthmus, 
a Committee of the House of Representatives of New Zealand having 
"recommended the appropriation of a sum not exceeding £30,000 per 
annum, from 1st January, 1864, for five years, as a contribution towards 
the colonial portion of a subsidy for such a service." New South Wales 
has agreed to vote £50,000 per annum. 


ing scale of returns from the different countries enume- 
rated above, which would immediately follow the open- 
ing of the Nicaraguan railroad ; how this will swell year 
by year we have ample precedent to prove. 

Per annum. 
Three-fourths of the existing traffic of the Panama Railway . £145,000 
Trade with Japan and the north of China, and Sandwich 

Islands .* . . 25,000 

Trade with Australia, New Zealand, and Polynesia . . . 55,000 

Total £225,000 

In other words, one quarter of the proposed outlay, or 
25 per cent., is the very least that may be reckoned 
upon as a return to the shareholders. I have been most 
careful to allow a wide margin for outlay, and to place 
the returns at a low figure ; therefore I have no hesita- 
tion in putting forward the statement that 25 per cent, 
may confidently be anticipated as the profits which 
would accrue to the Nicaraguan Railway Company. 

It will be observed that in the above estimate I have 
confined myself exclusively to the consideration of what 
would be derived from the railway traffic alone, — I have 
not even included the postal subsidies ; but there is an- 
other source which, while it would consolidate the un- 
dertaking, would, at the same time, bring in no trifling 
sum to the exchequer, — I mean the disposal and settle- 
ment of the waste lands in the vicinity of the line of 
rails. And judging by the precedent afforded by emi- 
gration projects properly conducted, this alone would 
not be less than 15 per cent. ; take the Canada Com- 
pany for instance, — its shares, with £32 paid on them, 
are selling at £102. 


In short, a calm and dispassionate consideration of 
the subject, based on the most moderate calculations, 
will, I feel sure, convince the people of this country, 

1. That the Nicaraguan transit will knit our colonies 
to us, and secure the advantages resulting from their 
daily-increasing commerce. 

2. That the opening of the route will be a death- 
blow to the undisguised determination of the Americans 
to drive us out of the Pacific, and to monopolize that 
trade themselves; and 

3. That, as far as anything human can be certain, 
here is an undertaking which will prove one of the most 
remunerative of the day, returning an enormous per- 
centage to the shareholders ; in short, it will pay well. 




" Some careful observers affirm that a quiet possession of 
the Mosquito country would one day be more valuable to 
Great Britain than all the islands which that nation pos- 
sesses in the West Indies" Thus wrote the Abbe Reynal 
in the last century, in his ' Philosophical and Political 
History of the East and West Indies ;' and his words at 
this day assume the significance of prophecy. 

Indeed, it is impossible to exaggerate the importance 
of Mosquito to our country ; it ought at this moment to 
be the cynosure of all English eyes, and the people of 
England should strain every nerve, during the present 
favourable opportunity, to repair the damages, and rec- 
tify the mistakes, made by the Ministry now in power. 
Most unfortunately for the nation, its foreign policy has 
been wielded by those who, however capable in other 
respects, cannot by any perversion be said to have repre- 
sented English feeling, or in even the remotest degree 


to have improved our relations with foreign countries. 
In proof of this, I need only remind my readers of a 
few Liberal acts, such as diplomacy at Vienna ; the " ex- 
traordinary''' Schleswig-Holstein dispatches, addressed 
to a small friendly and kindred power, and forwarded 
at a time, from a place, and in a manner, neither over- 
courteous, very graceful, nor particularly judicious ; the 
proposed cession of the Ionian Islands to Greece, — in 
other words, the dismemberment of the empire, without 
the consent of Parliament. The value of that protectorate 
may be nil; its retention may be a very disagreeable duty ; 
nevertheless it is a duty ; and as well might the trustees 
of a school make a present of the funds in their keeping 
to a hospital, as our Government offer to cede these 
islands to the Greeks. The property is not ours to give ; 
and this fact makes the conduct of Ministers the more 
provoking ; for if the offer was made under a full sense 
of the responsibilities incurred by the trusteeship, was it 
not very like dotage \ And if the duty was forgotten or 
not understood, was it not very like a species of igno- 
rance which we cannot hope to amend, and which is 
found to be dangerous in even the smallest matters 1 * 
Thus far as regards the morality ; but it is equally clear 
that placing a position of so much importance as Corfu 
in the hands of a weak state like Greece was not a 
brilliant conception ; indeed, it would seem to offer, as 
it were, a premium to the legion of malcontents in that 
quarter, who only want such a hotbed as Corfu would 

* No one but a Liberal minister would ever have thought of labouring 
for years to drive the Papacy out of Italy, and then offer to establish it at 
Malta, under the protection of the English flag. 


prove, to give rise to the gravest complications of the 
Eastern question, such as would speedily involve this 
country in another vast expenditure, another display of 
ignorance and mismanagement, and another mourning 
in sackcloth and ashes, characteristic of our Crimean 
campaign, — a page of history it were well had never 
been written, and which has nothing to illuminate it 
but individual bravery and devotion. 

If our policy with near neighbours, and concerning lo- 
calities at our very doors, fails to come up to the require- 
ments of the nation, is it to be expected that in more 
distant parts of the world, removed in a great measure 
from public observation, ministerial action should be 
regulated in a more enlightened manner % Accordingly 
we find that the very act in progress of consummation 
as regards Corfu, has been perpetrated in the case of 
Mosquito, our envoy having made a treaty in reference 
to that country such as might have been expected from 
the antecedents of his employers.* 

* Her Gracious Majesty cannot be aware that she is pledged to "use 
her good offices with the Chief of the Mosquito Indians, so that he shall 
accept the stipulations " which are contained in a treaty recognizing " as 
belonging to and under the sovereignty of the Republic of Nicaragua, the 
country hitherto occupied or claimed by the Mosquito Indians." That is 
to say, our good Queen, who has gained the affection of her subjects by 
her uniform love of justice, has engaged to use her good offices for the 
furtherance of a policy utterly repugnant to those principles which have 
elevated our beloved country to its proud position. Her present Ministers, 
not content with merely abandoning a weak country, have actually given 
it away without the smallest reference to those most deeply interested ; 
and this act is made more distressing by the fact that just as the philan- 
thropists of our country had succeeded in introducing the Christian religion 
(which, under Providence, has been the means of making us the great and 
glorious nation we are), Mosquito is suddenly handed over to Nicaragua, 
which is Roman Catholic, without the slightest warning, or any care for 


In the sketch which I have given of the Mosquito 
country, it will be remembered that the Spaniards never 
succeeded in subjecting the indomitable natives of this 
part of America to their sway; but, on the contrary, 
they found it to their interest to pay tribute to the King 
of Mosquito for permission to use the River San Juan, 
so as quietly to carry on their commerce with Nicaragua 
and Costarica. Moreover, not a single Spanish settle- 
ment was ever permitted to exist along the entire Mos- 
quito coast ; the natives being as invincibly hostile as the 
Bayano Indians on the Isthmus of Panama ; therefore, 
that the Mosquito Indians were free and independent 
there cannot be a question, and that they maintained 
their position and freedom during the occupation of the 
surrounding country by the Spaniards there cannot be a 
shadow of doubt. 

In 1822, when the Spanish American colonies re- 
volted, the Spanish tribute for permission to ascend the 
river San Juan unmolested ceased ; but the sudden open- 
ing of the long hermetically sealed ports drew general 
attention to the great political and commercial value 
so justly their due. Amongst other places the port of 
Greytown was not overlooked, some English settlers, 
under a grant from the King of Mosquito, taking up 
their residence there. They were the first to occupy the 
land, and for years carried on a trade with the interior 
of the country, without being molested in any way by 
Nicaragua, until that Eepublic was urged to do so by 
the United States. 

the future spiritual welfare of the natives thus cruelly left to their fate. 
Can we, a Protestant nation, permit any minister to disgrace us in this 


As soon as the Central American people were free 
from Spain, they claimed the right inherent in them of 
forming themselves into independent states; and, of 
course, even supposing Mosquito to have heen subject 
to Spain, it could have done the same, but this was not 
necessary. Mosquito remained, after the revolution, in 
precisely the same condition as it had continued since 
the conquest ; governed by its hereditary king and its 
own laws and customs, and with the full concurrence, 
aid, and support of an English protectorate. 

Thus it will be seen that the Mosquito Indians have 
ever maintained their independence; that, even sup- 
posing such had not been the case, they possessed the 
right, in common with other communities at the time 
of the Revolution, of choosing their own form of go- 
vernment, and therefore the claim of Nicaragua was 
and is simply preposterous. Lastly, as regards the Port 
of Greytown, it unquestionably belonged to Mosquito, 
if only from the fact that it was first occupied by that 
Power. In short, there is no lack of proof in law and 
equity regarding the claims of Mosquito, and abundant 
evidence of the absurdity of the views put forward by 
Nicaragua, at the instigation of the United States. In- 
deed Nicaragua has no more right to Mosquito than 
Spain has to Portugal. 

For nearly two hundred years there has been a close 
friendship between Mosquito and England, and many 
have been the benefits we have derived from the same, 
not only in commerce (pp. 71-2), but in actual warfare, 
first, in the aid afforded to the boldly conceived enter- 
prise of Nelson directed against the Spanish power in 


America, and subsequently in punishing the Republic of 
Nicaragua. The formal protectorate into which we en- 
tered with Mosquito was the result of an enlightened 
policy, and it ought to have been binding upon us at all 
risks. We quartered our flag with theirs ; we formed 
settlements along their coast ; we crowned and educated 
their kings ; and at the especial request of one, the pre- 
decessor of his present Majesty, Protestant missionaries 
were induced to settle in the country, and devote them- 
selves to Christianizing and educating the natives. The 
king's letter, dated the 12th of February, 1840, seeking 
Her Britannic Majesty's aid, contains the following ex- 
pression of his wishes, and shows his progress in civiliza- 
tion : — " That salutary laws may be established in my 
kingdom, like those which Her Majesty's subjects have 
the happiness to enjoy, and to introduce, among us the 
blessings of the Christian religion, which alone can en- 
sure us lasting peace." 

These sentiments are enlightened, and the requests 
then made have been responded to ; indeed, in every 
respect, even to naming the principal seaport after one 
of our statesmen, we fully committed ourselves to Mos- 
quito : and truly we were wise to do so ; for if ever a 
people were deeply interested in any matter, English- 
men were, in maintaining as close a tie as possible with 
Mosquito. Where will you find a country to equal it 
as a cotton-field 1 and where else will you very shortly 
find a gate to the Pacific but through that territory ? 
The public, unfortunately, are only just beginning to 
open their eyes to the dangerous nature of our foreign 
policy. Surely the subserviency of our various Liberal 


Governments to American intimidation is not in accord- 
ance with the real character of John Bull. Read the 
Report to Congress, in the Appendix of this work ; why, 
the Americans have such a contempt for us that they 
openly point out the commercial course they intend to 
pursue. Read Mr. Adams's dispatches to his Govern- 
ment at Washington, recently published in the ' Times.' 
Why, an English gentleman of the mildest temper would 
have turned any one out of his house who presumed to 
speak to him as Mr. Adams says he addressed Lord Rus- 
sell. A diplomatic education is not necessary, thank 
God, to teach a man independence and proper self-re- 
spect. I fear indeed its tendency may be quite the con- 
trary when we find the spirited foreign policy of our 
administration to mean " an incessant alternation be- 
tween insult and abject submission," leaving us without 
friends in Europe, and embittering the enmities of Ame- 
rica ; the spirit which permits the blockade of Nassau 
and Bermuda, the attack on the ' Herald' and other 
vessels within gun-shot of British shores, and the burn- 
ing of the 'Blanche' in neutral waters. 

I make these remarks in the earnest hope of arousing 
the attention of my countrymen to their danger. Do 
they not perceive that the same policy which character- 
ized Lord Aberdeen's Government, and deluded the 
Czar of Russia as to the real temper of the English 
people, is precisely the same as that of the present Ad- 
ministration towards America, and that we are drifting 
helplessly into troubled waters 1 * 

* " The grovelling and cold-blooded selfishness of the British Ministry 
towards the Confederate States is fast engendering towards that country a 


In dealing with a nation of bullies, quiet decision, 
and a determined resentment of the slightest liberty, is 
the only course that can be pursued with safety. Has 
Government done this X Certainly not. Indeed, as re- 
gards the Americans, they have brow-beaten us more 
than ever. As I stated above, it was through their 
intimidation, — I write the word with shame, — that the 
series of disgraceful Central American treaties was ne- 
gotiated. It was, no doubt, desirable to settle the Mos- 
quito question ; it was the bete noire of each successive 
Liberal government ; but no one of that party seemed to 
understand the key to all the trouble. No less than nine 
treaties have been drawn up within the last fifteen years, 
with a view to arrange matters. That called the Clayton- 
Bulwer has attained the most notoriety. The ' New 
York Herald,' December 17th, 1858, says: "Whether 
Mr. Clayton took Sir H. L. Bulwer for a fool, history 
may determine ;" but it was the general impression in 
the American Senate that Bulwer had overreached him. 
" Mr. Clayton was much affected by his failure ; and it is 
believed to have hastened his death." Such appears to 

bitterness of feeling in this that cannot fail to tell upon the future relations 
of the two governments, and still more materially upon the business 
intercourse of their people. If we credit appearances, nine-tenths of 
the British people are with us and for us, an equal or greater proportion of 
the press, and a large minority, if not a majority, of the ministry. Yet 
so passive is their sympathy, that they permit, almost without remon- 
strance . . . Russell and Palmerston, to place the British nation in an atti- 
tude towards us heartlessly and cruelly unjust. There can be no doubt 
that those who direct the policy of England secretly rejoice in the fact 
that the late United States are arrayed against each other in bitter strife, 
literally threatening the complete annihilation of each other, thus relieving 
her of a powerful rival of whom she lived in continual dread." — Rich- 
mond Whig, December 29, 1862. 


have been the spirit in which this important matter has 
been dealt with. The waste of time and money, and the 
irritation, caused by this diplomacy, can be more readily 
imagined than described. At last, in 1857, Sir William 
Gore Ouseley was sent out to Central America to set- 
tle the various points in dispute ; but, unfortunately for 
the country, just as the matter had been placed by him 
on a thoroughly English basis, the whole policy of Down- 
ing Street was changed by the incoming of the Whigs, 
and Mr., afterwards Sir Charles Lennox Wyke, was 
charged by the new Government to make an end of the 
subject, probably on any terms. The treaties concluded 
by Mr. "Wyke with Nicaragua and Honduras are in- 
serted in the Appendix.* They are as extraordinary spe- 
cimens as can be found anywhere. The Mosquito In- 
dians have been compressed within the smallest possible 
space. The Bay Islands have been abandoned ; Grey- 
town has been given up to Nicaragua ; the protectorate 
of Mosquito relinquished, and our ancient allies declared 
to be subject to Nicaragua ; indeed, if we had been com- 
pelled to ratify these treaties at the point of the bayo- 
net, they could not have been more humiliating. This is 
indeed liberalism with a vengeance. Lord Russell was 
not content with saying to Mosquito — We cannot pro- 
tect you any longer, because the States have insisted that 
we should give in our adhesion to the Monroe doctrine, 

* This diplomatist has, it appears, been acting in a similar manner in 
Mexico : — " In this, as in every other case, Sir C. Wyke had not conde- 
scended to take the slightest notice of the existence of any Englishman 
but himself in Mexico, or to take the counsel or ask the opinion of those 
whose interests were so vitally at stake, but in this, as in everything, treated 
them with hauteur." — LemprieresJ Notes in Mexico,' 1861-2, p. 414. 

2 C 


excluding " all interference on the part of European 
governments in American affairs ;" but he actually hands 
over a weak but independent people, without the slightest 
reference to their wishes, though bound to us by the 
closest ties, to the tender mercies of an adjacent country, 
differing from them in customs, language, and religion. 
Is not such diplomacy atrocious 1 Can any one read 
the accounts lately received from our missionaries 
(pp. 81-85) without burning with indignation at this 
abandonment of England's Christian principles X Why 
have these good men been inveigled into a false position, 
and induced to toil so many years in Mosquito for the 
advancement of a religion which has made England the 
great nation she is, and which her people are bound by 
every law, human and divine, to extend to others, only 
to be summarily handed over to a power professing a 
religion which we hold to be corrupt % 

It is impossible to exaggerate the folly of our policy 
in Central America. If people will just for one mo- 
ment imagine the result to England should the route 
across Suez, by any chance, .be closed, they may form 
some idea of what will be danger if we allow our- 
selves to be hoodwinked by the Americans, while they 
strain every nerve to shut us out from any avenue of ap- 
proach to the Pacific. Think of the vast interests we have 
in that direction ; only imagine the shock it would be to 
our prosperity if the cherished aim of the Americans, of 
diverting all the western trade from London to the ware- 
houses of New York, is carried out by them. We must not 
forget that our rival is much nearer British Columbia, 
Japan, New Zealand, and Eastern Australia than we 


are ; and now, by the monopoly of the Panama Railway 
transit, virtually holds the key of the Gate of the Pa- 
cific. Over and over again we have been warned to 
" beware how we trust ourselves in the power of a rival, 
and perhaps a foe ;" we have totally disregarded that ad- 
vice hitherto, and already are paying for our blindness. 
What I fear in the present case is, that the public may 
not take alarm until it is too late, for certainly they 
will receive no intimation of the danger from their own 
Government ; indeed, my efforts have met with nothing 
but rebuff from that quarter, and to prevent the possi- 
bility of any charge against the gentlemen in Downing 
Street of complicity with my proceedings, I think it just 
to them to insert the correspondence which has passed 
between us. 

I first received a letter from the late Commander-in- 
chief on the North American and West Indian station, 
referring to some of the paragraphs which from time to 
time appeared in the ' New York Herald,'* and desiring 
explanation. This was the prelude to a lengthy corre- 
spondence, in which the utility of my project, I must 
say, was never questioned ; but, as the small black cloud 
on the horizon of the United States had not at that 
time been observed — although our nervous Ministers 

* ' New York Herald ' of the 13th and 14th of February, and 31st of 
March, 1860 :— 

"Interesting from Central America. 

" I have just this moment been informed that Captain Bedford Pirn, 
B.N., commanding H.B.M. steamer Gorgon, now here, who returned 
yesterday from a visit to Managua, has a new project for a route via 
this isthmus, which he has submitted to the Nicaraguan Government. 
Captain Pirn proposes to make Monkey Point (some forty miles up the 
coast) a starting-point, run a railroad thence to San Miguelito, on Lake 

2 C 2 



appear to have been ceaselessly looking out for squalls 
from that quarter — it was thought necessary that the 
Government should be prepared with the usual " dis- 
avowal and disapproval" in the shape of the following 
letter : — 

" ' Nile,' at Halifax, 21st June, 1860. 
" Sir, — With reference to the correspondence on the subject 
of your purchase of land at Monkey Point, I enclose, for your 

Nicaragua, thence by steamer across the Lake to the river Sapoa, and 
from thence again by railroad to the Bay of Salinas, on the Pacific Ocean. 
There is a good harbour at each terminus, and the route is said to be 

"It is believed that the visit of Captain Pirn, of the 'Gorgon,' to 
Granada and Managua, had some connection with the proposed transit, 
especially as the Captain has purchased from the Mosquito king a large 
tract of land near Monkey Point. 

" WTio is Captain Pirn ? 

" As Captain Pirn has been introduced to the citizens of Greytown, it 
is but right that the readers of the ' Herald ' should also be made ac- 
quainted with that gentleman. 

" Captain Pirn is a favourable specimen of Young England. He was one 
of the officers of the ' Resolute,' under Captain Kellett; and 'Pirn's mu- 
sical-box ' was one of the articles found in the cabin, and restored in statu 
quo. Since that time Captain Pirn has distinguished himself in China, 
where he was engaged in a hand-to-hand conflict with several long-tailed 

" He is a man of about thirty-five, ruddy complexion, English leg-of- 
mutton whiskers, short thick-set frame, and eyes full of fun and mischief ; 
he is somewhat addicted to slang, and, though not possessing the owl-like 
dignity considered by some necessary to the rank of a naval commander, 
is, nevertheless, to use his own phraseology, ' a stunnin' good fellow.' 

" Captain Pirn has been gazetted three times for gallant conduct. 
Would it not be expedient to introduce into our navy, also, the principle 
of promotion for bravery ? At present, the man who lives the longest is 
sure to reach the highest rank, and naval officers progress as people do at 
the post-office window, all in a long line. This system is one which might 
be sometimes advantageously departed from. 

" Let those officers whose whole naval history is contained in the ' Naval 
Register ' be content to advance in the rule of seniority ; but let gallant 


information, a copy of a letter I have received from the Admi- 
ralty, dated the 29th ult., relative thereto. 
1 ' I am, Sir, 

"Your obedient servant, 

"Alexander Milne, 

" Sear-Admiral and Commander-in-Chief. 
" Commander Pirn, 

"H.M.S. Gorgon, Portsmouth." 

achievements be followed by immediate actual promotion, apart from 
party politics and party influence." 

" New Transit route across the Isthmus. — Preliminary arrangements for 

its completion. 
" Captain Pirn is vigorously prosecuting his new Transit project, via 
Monkey Point. He has just completed a comprehensive chart of the 
harbour (G-orgon Bay) , got up in beautiful style, showing the depth of the 
water from his own soundings, as well as the islands here and there dotting 
the Bay, and also giving a truthful idea of the mainland to the northward. 
He has concluded arrangements with a gentleman, who is nearly ready to 
start with a competent party, to cut a road in a direct line from Monkey 
Point to San Miguelito, on Lake Nicaragua. Several gentlemen have 
already made investments in Captain Pirn's lands, and a large party will 
start in a few days for Gorgon Bay, to begin a settlement there. The Cap- 
tain is a regular go-ahead, driving man, and success to him ! " 

" Aspinwall, March 20, 1860. 

" Total ohscuration of the star of Monsieur Belly. — A French war-vessel 
at Cartagena, with a corps of engineers to survey the Atrato route. 

" The English steamer arrived yesterday morning from San Juan. She 
reports all the citizens of that famous place in a state of effervescence, and 
ready to abandon ' Greytown ' for Monkey Point, — a new embryo city, 
destined as the Atlantic terminus of the newly-discovered transit route of 
Captain Pirn, of her Britannic Majesty's steamer Gorgon. He is now the 
hero of Greytown, for the star and fame of Monsieur Belly are clean gone 
out for ever. Captain Pirn's scheme, however, is much more reasonable 
and practicable than the Frenchman's, and something may come of it. 

" By the arrival of a small coaster from Carthagena yesterday, I 
learn that a French man-of-war was in that port, with a full and tho- 
roughly equipped corps of engineers on board, destined for a survey of the 
Atrato route. So the French and English are still looking for some other 
transit to the Pacific than the Panama Railroad." 



" Admiralty, 29th May, 18GO. 
" Sir, — With reference to your letter of the 20th April last, 
No. 42, transmitting the explanation of Commander Bedford 
Pirn, of the ' Gorgon/ respecting the purchase of land at Mon- 
key Point, Mosquito, I am commanded by my Lords Commis- 
sioners of the Admiralty to acquaint you that they have re- 
ceived a communication from her Majesty's Secretary of State 
for Foreign Affairs upon this subject, and stating that, in his 
opinion, the proceedings of Commander Pirn should be dis- 
avowed and disapproved. 

" My Lords are unable to account for an officer in Com- 
mander Pirn's position having failed to perceive that his pro- 
ceedings and conduct on the occasion were liable to be misre- 
presented, as the acts of an officer in her Majesty's service, au- 
thorized by her Majesty's Government. His extreme impru- 
dence in taking such steps, under the peculiar circumstances in 
which he was placed, is deserving of the strongest censure ; he 
is therefore to be informed that he has incurred the marked 
displeasure of their Lordships, and has proved himself to be 
unfit for the duties with which he has been entrusted.* 
" I am, Sir, 

"Your obedient servant, 

(Signed) " W. G. Romaine. 

" Rear- Admiral Sir Alexander Milne, K.C.B., 
" Halifax, N.S." 

* Observe the date. In June I arrived at Portsmouth from the "West 
Indies ; H.M.S. Gorgon (one of the failure paddle-wheel frigates), then 
under my command, being in a very dilapidated condition, and requiring 
breaking up or reconstruction ; the latter was of course determined upon, 
and we remained in Portsmouth harbour more than four months, going 
through that process. I then received orders to proceed on special duty 
to the Cape of Good Hope, the ' Gorgon ' to remain there as part of the 
squadron. She is still there. After taking the ship to her destination 
and performing the duty required of me, I found that private affairs re- 
quired my presence in England ; 1 therefore exchanged into H.M.S. 


Previous to the receipt of the above document, I felt 
more or less desponding as to my power of bringing 
prominently under the notice of my countrymen, so as 
to enforce attention, the momentous question at issue, 
but this official letter cheered me ; I knew there was now 
a propect of success, and that the Government had un- 
wittingly paid me the greatest compliment. They were 
simply true to their instincts and traditions ; and when 
I remembered that at the time Waghorn proposed the 
Overland route, the official mind desired "no steam to 
India at all," that, George Stephenson's proposals were 
laughed at, and that, a similar influence was even then 
opposing the Thames embankment, I was convinced 
that every great effort for the welfare of the nation 
must abide a like test of its value. 

I have thought it a duty to introduce the above corre- 
spondence, because I am desirous that Ministers should 
by no possibility be " misrepresented ; " and I think it 
is due to them, to prevent any one from supposing for 
one moment that my act was " the act of an officer in 
her Majesty's service, authorized by her Majesty's Go- 
vernment." Moreover, it would not be honest to my 
countrymen to shirk from the whole truth. 

In bringing my book to a conclusion, I shall sum up 
briefly the details which I have urged at length in the 
preceding pages. Any one can easily convince himself 
that we have commercial interests in the Pacific, 

Fury, then on her way home, and paid that ship off at Portsmouth, in 
June, 1861 : having had, as the reader will perceive, the privilege of con- 
tributing the usual £"200 per annum (the sum it costs a naval officer now- 
adays, over and above his pay, to command with credit one of H.M. ships) 
for the space of a year after I was pronounced unfit. 


comprising a vast portion of the trade of the nation ; 
that the introduction of steam-power has revolution- 
ized the old-fashioned method of doing business, neces- 
sitating the most rapid interchange of correspondence 
and ideas, even an hour's gain in time being often 
of the first importance to the merchant ; and that, to 
keep pace with other countries nearly concerns our very 
vitality, for to stand still is to retrograde, and once 
behind, it is very, very difficult to make up the lost 
ground. Our interests in the West nearly balance those 
of the East. Look at Australia, New Zealand, Poly- 
nesia, Japan,* Northern China, and British Columbia ; 
it is upon the development of these countries, and the 
securing to ourselves their commerce, that the continu- 
ance of England's greatness hinges ; but we are quietly 
allowing all these advantages to slip through our 
fingers. The question has been treated by the Govern- 
ment of this country with marvellous apathy or igno- 
rance ; it is time, however, that the eyes of the public 
should be opened, and then it will be their own fault, 
and they will only have themselves to blame, if the best 
interests of the nation are allowed to be sacrificed with- 
out let or hindrance. 

It seems hardly credible that there is only one 
monthly mail to Australia ; that sixty days is the time 
occupied in the carriage of a letter to New Zealand ; 
that we have not even yet drawn on the resources of 

* "A letter from Lyons states that a first cargo of silk has arrived there 
from Japan. It reached Europe, not by the Chinese seas and India, but 
by the Pacific and the Isthmus of Panama." — Paris ' Times' Correspon- 
dent, January 28th, 1863. 

The French, at all events, are fully alive to their commercial interests. 


Japan, while to this hour British Columbia is struggling 
into maturity in spite of the indifference of those who 
should grapple that colony " to their hearts with hooks 
of steel." Contrast the career of California under Ame- 
rican auspices, and that of British Columbia under En- 
glish ; in the case of the former, the Government of the 
United States devoted their earnest attention to its wel- 
fare. Bead the report to Congress in the Appendix, 
and it will be seen that every nerve was strained in 
behalf of the young state, and vast has been the re- 
ward. It has not only added immensely to the exports 
and imports, and therefore the wealth of the mother- 
country ; but in swelling the proportions of the Union it 
has increased its political status in a wonderful degree, 
and, in a strategical point of view, gained for that nation 
a commanding position on the shores of the Pacific. In 
the case of the latter, what are the facts \ No one can 
doubt that, politically and commercially, the prosperity 
of Vancouver Island and British Columbia* is of much 
greater value to England, than that of California is to 
the United States, and that the former under proper 
management and encouragement could, and would, over- 
shadow the American state in a very few years ; but can 
we dare to hope for this consummation, when we are told 
by authority that the mere "apprehension" of hostilities 
with the United States was sufficient to intercept govern- 

* Eead the first leading article in the ' Times ' of January 28th, 1863, 
on British Columbia, especially the account of its coal-fields : " It has an 
unlimited quantity of a fair bituminous coal, lighter by ten per cent, than 
Welsh coal, and answering well for steaming purposes." From this source 
a cheap and abundant supply of fuel might be supplied for the great lines 
of steamers which I propose in the Pacific. 


mental communications for the space of " six weeks 1 ' I 
Is it not enough to make an Englishman blush for his 
nationality when such a fact is coolly promulgated to the 
world X I for one felt it keenly, and addressed the fol- 
lowing letter to our Colonial Secretary ; but, I am sorry 
to say, not even the usual official reply has been vouch- 
safed. I regret this, not from any personal pique at the 
absence of that courtesy which every gentleman has a 
right to expect from another, but because of the evi- 
dence thus afforded of that melancholy apathy, as re- 
gards the welfare of the nation, which seems to rule in 
the present Government. 

" Junior United Service Club, S.W., July 10, 1862. 

" My Lord Duke, — The great importance of an independent 
route to British Columbia is sufficiently indicated by your 
Grace's speech in the House of Lords on the 4th inst. 

" I do myself the honour to solicit your Grace's attention to a 
new route through Central America, described in the enclosed 
abstract of a paper, read by me at the Royal Geographical 
Society, four months ago. 
te Its advantages are : — 

" 1st. The postal service would be secure. 

11 2nd. English interests generally would be independent of 

the Panama Railway. 
" 3rd. There would be a great highway in British interests, 
offering the shortest, healthiest, safest, and cheapest 
route to New Zealand, Australia, Polynesia, and 
" 4th. British Columbia could be reached four days earlier 

than by any existing route. 
" 5th. Without the responsibility of a national possession, 
the adjacent lands (which before the emancipation of 
the negroes exported the finest Sea Island cotton, and 


L British 

Stuping Lmes of Communication 





X R T H 


proposed by 


((Ac Gulf' is .:--U,r.J; ■.■/,,.-,. i ■ ■< ' 1 .. 

--^^ Assoc, InsPCE. 



^O'V \ -/^^N 



which are nearer home and more easily reached than 
even New Orleans) wonld again be opened np. 
u Some influential gentlemen, with whom I have been for 
several weeks in communication, propose to establish the new 
route by means of a company. It is not intended to ask for a 
guarantee, but it would greatly promote our enterprise, which 
I believe to be of national importance, if it should meet with 
your Grace's approbation. 

" I should feel it an honour to communicate all the details of 
my plan, and the facts, which I collected on the spot, should 
your Grace desire further information on the subject. 
" I have the honour to be, 

" Your Grace's most obedient servant, 
"Bedfoed Pim, 
" Commander Royal Navy, late 
Senior Officer in Central America. 
" To His Grace the Duke of Newcastle, 

Secretary of State for the Colonies." 

If the reader will reflect for one moment, he cannot 
fail to be astounded at the policy which our Government 
has adopted in Central American affairs, and especially 
the Mosquito question.* Look at Nicaragua ! her geo- 
graphical position fits her for the commerce of the uni- 
verse ; she is in reality the centre of the New World. 
Mosquito, to say nothing of its intrinsic worth, offers 
an Atlantic port ; an easy means of reaching this vast 
wealth, besides being on the highway to all our interests 
to the westward; but what has the Government done I 
why, gone out of their way to perform a gratuitous act 
of gross injustice to old friends and allies, and deprived 
their country of a vantage-ground of vital importance 

* By what right does England fix empirical boundaries to claims of pos- 
sessions which have no lawful existence, and acknowledge authority where 
no Spanish or Nicaraguan red tape has ever yet dared to show itself ? 


to her commercial welfare. Such conduct, however in- 
excusable, is happily not irretrievable; at the proper 
period, resources are brought to light under the dis- 
pensations of an all-wise Providence, which have been 
long provided, but remain out of sight until circum- 
stances arise which make their application self-evident. 
This, I am sanguine enough to believe, is the case with 
the discovery of the new route through Nicaragua, and 
which only requires the requisite English energy to be 
shortly an accomplished fact. 

It is now certain, that in the new order of things, the 
giant arms of steam must shortly embrace the whole 
world : whether this will be accomplished through the 
Americans, or by us, remains to be seen. We have 
stretched across the Isthmus of Suez, and with asto- 
nishing results pushed steam to the eastward ; we must 
now do the same by way of the Nicaraguan Transit to 
the westward; or it is certain our transatlantic kins- 
men will do so, and then good-bye to Australia, New 
Zealand, British Columbia, and all connection with that 
side of the New World. 

I wish now to draw attention to the physical strength 
of the rivalry with which we have to cope on the other 
side of the Atlantic, and in doing so I must go a little 
into figures, to show the relative proportions of the two 

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland 
numbered in 1861, 29,313,000; the United States in 
1860 numbered 27,477,090; the Slaves, 3,952,801; 
total, 31,429,891. 

In the year 1871, the estimated population of Great 


Britain and Ireland, assuming the rate of increase to be 
the same as between 1851 and 1861, viz. nearly six per 
cent., — in England it was twelve per cent., — will be 
30,989,000, while in the United States the population 
by 1870 will have attained 42,323,341 ; and at the 
same ratio, that is to say, at the rate of 34*6, the average 
decennial increase per cent, of our kinsmen on the other 
side of the Atlantic, their population will in 1890 have 
reached the enormous amount of 76,677,872 — in other 
words, be just double the number which the census re- 
turns of this country will then show. It behoves our 
statesmen to ponder well over these figures. 

So much for the increase of the two countries, 
which is largely in favour of America,* , and will go far 
to give her the victory, unless we infuse more energy 
into our movements ; for it cannot be too often urged 
that, in addition to numerical superiority, there is the 
strongest national feeling against us; "to humble Eng- 
land" is at present the day-dream of all "patriotic 
Americans ; " and when to this be added their self-evi- 
dent commercial interest in so doing, I do not think the 
danger is trifling, or that we can afford to relax for one 
second the most strenuous exertions to frustrate their 
machinations. Our neighbour, the Emperor of the 
French, is thoroughly alive to the aggressive policy of 
the United States, and to check this before it destroys 
European interests in the New World, has been no 

* " The increase of the American people has been most remarkable since 
the development of the means of communication has produced a corre- 
sponding development of trade, and the improvements in navigation 
enormously increased the power of exchanging the products of industry." — 
Malthus's 'Exposition of the Principles of Population.' 


doubt the motive-power of his policy in Mexico, as 
clearly pointed out in the following extract from his 
letter to General Forey. 

"We have an interest in the Republic of the United 
States being powerful and prosperous, but not that she 
should take possession of the whole Gulf of Mexico, 
thence command the Antilles as well as South America, 
and be the only dispenser of the products of the New 
World." Again : " To restore to the Latin race on the 
other side of the Atlantic all its strength and prestige, 
to give security to our West India colonies and those of 
Spain, and to establish a friendly influence in the centre 
of America," is the mission of France. 

We will now look a little at the relative commercial 
positions of London and New York as regards the western 
trade of which I have been speaking ; and one glance at 
the map will be sufficient to point out that New York 
holds the most commanding position of the two, — not 
alone because it is nearer in actual distance, but because 
its citizens hold the key of the Pacific, — I allude to 
the Panama railroad ; and had not the present strug- 
gle in America upset all commercial undertakings, in 
that country, a line of American steamers would have 
been running between Australia, New Zealand, and 
New York, by means of which the commerce of those 
colonies would have been carried off under our very 
noses ; and I also know for a fact, that a new line of 
steamers was to have been placed on the Atlantic to 
compete with the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company ; 
and who can doubt with what result, for Englishmen 
do not nowadays prefer to pay £35 to travel in an English 


steamer when they can get the same accommodation 
for £25, — to say nothing of performing the voyage in 
less time. 

If we are to maintain onr position as a first-rate 
Power, — and to do this we mnst spare no pains to extend 
and increase our commerce in all directions, — then it is 
high time to be up and stirring. The United States for 
many years have been brandished as a rod in pickle for 
this country. We should not have tolerated the lan- 
guage used towards us if it had been addressed by any 
other Power ; but somehow we have so quietly submitted 
to their kicks, and allowed them to pick up the half- 
pence, that Americans are perfectly convinced that we 
entertain a chronic fear of them ; and they even use the 
argument afforded by our conduct in the 'Trent' business, 
when their hands were tied, as a proof of our cowardice ; 
in short, there can be no question of the action which 
will be taken on the other side of the Atlantic directly 
a favourable opportunity occurs. If they succeed in 
shutting the Gate of the Pacific against us, and keeping 
it fastened, I cannot see how we are to retain Australia, 
New Zealand, and British Columbia. Our Adminis- 
tration may be quite prepared to let those colonies set 
up for themselves whenever they like, and to consider 
their loss as colonies in reality a gain ; but the abstrac- 
tion of their commerce into American channels is quite 
another affair ; that is the true point at issue, and it 
will assuredly take place if we do not very shortly open 
a speedy means of communication with them, and keep 
that transit open at all hazards. What I should pro- 
pose would be a European International Highway in the 


interests of the Old World. The selfish Monroe doc- 
trine, " America for the Americans," should be treated 
with the contempt it merits. I should be heartily glad 
to see the two nations, in a friendly spirit, emulating 
each other in the cause of civilization; but I cannot 
shut my eyes to the fact that the Yankees have invari- 
ably rejoiced at our disasters and difficulties; spoken of 
the annexation of our property as already accomplished ; 
and taken every opportunity of showing that the spirit 
of the nation against us is more consonant with the 
character of the red Indians of their continent, than that 
of an Anglo-Saxon people. 

I have pointed out a means by which American de- 
signs against us may be foiled, and a desirable highway 
of nations be opened. I have placed my project before 
the Government, with what result the correspondence 
above will prove ; it now remains with the public to de- 
cide whether they choose to permit this apathy of their 
interests, this meek surrender of important rights. The 
matter is now before them, and, I trust I have shown 
clearly that if the Americans are allowed to monopolize 
every avenue of approach to the Pacific, and to close the 
gate against us, the result must be, to use their own 
words, — "to throw into the warehouses and shipping of the 
United States the entire commerce of the Pacific Ocean.'" 


1. Treaty of Friendship, Commerce, and Navigation, between 

Her Majesty and the Eepublic of Nicaragua. Signed at 
Managua, February 11th, 1860. 

2. Treaty between Her Majesty and the Republic of Nica- 

ragua, relative to the Mosquito Indians, and to the 
Rights and Claims of British Subjects. Signed at Managua, 
January 2$th, 1860. 

3. Treaty between Her Majesty and the Republic of Hon- 

duras, respecting the Bay Islands, the Mosquito Indians, 
and the Rights and Claims of British Subjects. Signed 
at Comayagua, November %8tk, 1860. 

4. Extracts from an Official Report to the American Con- 

gress, on the Communications between the Atlantic and 

5. Extracts from Convention and Amended Charter of the 

American Atlantic and Pacific Ship Canal Company, 
19th June, 1857, and Explanatory Articles respecting 
the same, 15th October, 1857. 

2 D 



Signed at Managua, February 11, 1860. 

Presented to both Houses of Parliament by Command of Pier Majesty. 


Article II. — The two high contracting parties being desi- 
rous of placing the commerce and navigation of their respective 
countries on the liberal basis of perfect equality and reciprocity, 
mutually agree that the citizens of each may frequent all the 
coasts and countries of the other, and reside therein, and shall 
have the power to purchase and hold all kinds of property 
which the laws of the country may permit any foreigners, of 
whatever nation, to hold, and to engage in all kinds of trade, 
manufactures, and mining, upon the same terms with subjects 
or citizens of other countries. They shall enjoy all the privi- 
leges and concessions in these matters which are or may be 
made to the subjects or citizens of any country; and shall en- 
joy all the rights, privileges, and exemptions, in navigation, 
commerce, and manufactures, which native subjects or citizens 
do or shall enjoy, submitting themselves to the laws there esta- 
blished, to which native subjects or citizens are subjected. 

The high contracting parties further engage that neither will 

2 D 2 


grant any favour to any other nation, in respect of commerce 
and navigation, which shall not immediately become common to 
the other contracting party. 

Aeticle XV. — The subjects of her Britannic Majesty residing 
in the Eepublic of Nicaragua, and the citizens of the Kepublic 
of Nicaragua residing in the dominions of her Britannic Ma- 
jesty, shall be exempted from all compulsory military service 
whatsoever, whether by sea or land, and from all forced loans, or 
military exactions or requisitions ; and they shall not be com- 
pelled, under any pretext whatsoever, to pay any ordinary or ex- 
traordinary charges, requisitions, or taxes, other or higher than 
those that are or may be paid by native subjects or citizens. 

Article XVII. — British subjects residing in the territories of 
the Republic of Nicaragua shall enjoy the most perfect and en- 
tire liberty of conscience, without being annoyed, molested, or 
disturbed, on account of their religious belief. Neither shall 
they be annoyed, molested, or disturbed, in the proper exercise 
of their religion, in private houses, or in the chapels or places 
of worship appointed for that purpose, provided that in so do- 
ing they observe the decorum due to Divine worship, and the 
respect due to the laws of the country. Liberty shall also be 
granted to bury British subjects who may die in the territories 
of the Kepublic of Nicaragua, in convenient and adequate 
places, to be appointed and established by themselves for that 
purpose, with the knowledge of the local authorities, or in such 
other places of sepulture as may be chosen by the friends of the 
deceased ; nor shall the funerals or sepulchres of the dead be 
disturbed in any wise, or upon any account. 

Article XX. — The Republic of Nicaragua hereby grants to 
Great Britain, and to British subjects and property, the right of 
transit between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, through the 
territories of that Republic, on any route of communication, 
natural or artificial, whether by land or water, which may now 
or hereafter exist or he constructed under the authority of Nica- 


ragua, to be used and enjoyed in the same manner and upon 
equal terms by both parties, and their respective subjects and 
citizens ; the Eepublic of Nicaragua, however, reserving its full 
and complete right of sovereignty over the same ; and, gene- 
rally, the Eepublic of Nicaragua engages to grant to Great 
Britain, and to British subjects, the same rights and privileges^ 
in all respects, in regard to the transit and the rates of transit, 
and also as regards all other rights, privileges, or advantages 
whatsoever, whether relating to the passage and employment 
of troops, or otherwise, which are now or may hereafter be 
granted to, or allowed to be enjoyed by, the most favoured 

Aeticle XXI. — Her Majesty the Queen of the United King- 
dom of Great Britain and Ireland hereby agrees to extend her 
protection to all such routes of communication as aforesaid, and, 
to guarantee the neutrality and innocent use of the same. Her 
Britannic Majesty also agrees to employ her influence with 
other nations to induce them to guarantee such neutrality and 

And the Republic of Nicaragua, on its part, undertakes to 
establish two free ports, one at each of the extremities of the 
communication aforesaid, on the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. 
At these ports, no tonnage or other duties shall be imposed or 
levied by the Government of Nicaragua on the vessels of Great 
Britain, or on any effects or merchandise belonging to subjects 
of Great Britain, or of any other country, intended bond fide for 
transit across the said route of communication, and not for con- 
sumption within the Republic of Nicaragua. Her Britannic 
Majesty shall also be at liberty, on giving notice to the Govern- 
ment or authorities of Nicaragua, to carry troops, provided 
they are destined for a British possession, or places beyond sea, 
and are not intended to be employed against Central American 
nations friendly to Nicaragua, and munitions of war, and also 
to convey criminals, prisoners, and convicts, with their escorts 
in her own vessels or otherwise, to either of the said free ports, 
and shall be entitled to their conveyance between them, without 


obstruction by the authorities of Nicaragua, and without any 
charges or tolls whatever for their transportation, or any of the 
said routes of communication. And no higher or other charges 
or tolls shall be imposed on the conveyance or transit of the 
persons and property of subjects of Great Britain, or of the 
subjects and citizens of any other country, across the said routes 
of communication, than are or may be imposed on the persons 
or property of citizens of Nicaragua. 

And the Republic of Nicaragua concedes the right of the 
Postmaster- General of Great Britain to enter into contracts with 
any individuals or companies to transport the mails of Great 
Britain along the said routes of communication, or along any 
other routes across the isthmus, in closed bags, the contents of 
which may not be intended for distribution within the said Repub- 
lic free from the imposition of all taxes or duties by the Govern- 
ment of Nicaragua ; but this liberty is not to be construed so 
as to permit such individuals or companies, by virtue of this 
right to transport the mails, to carry also passengers or freight, 
except any messenger deputed by the British Post-office, in 
charge of mails. 

Aeticle XXII, — The Republic of Nicaragua agrees that, 
should it become necessary at any time to employ military 
forces for the security and protection of persons and property 
passing over any of the routes aforesaid, it will employ the re- 
quisite force for that purpose ; but upon failure to do this for 
any cause whatever, her Britannic Majesty may, with the con- 
sent, or at the request of the Government of Nicaragua, or of 
the Minister thereof, at London or Paris, or of the competent 
legally-appointed local authorities, civil or military, employ 
such force for this and for no other purpose ; and when, in the 
opinion of the Nicaraguan Government, the necessity ceases, 
such force shall be immediately withdrawn. 

In the exceptional case, however, of unforeseen or imminent 
danger to the lives or properties of British subjects, her Ma- 
jesty's forces are authorized to act for their protection without 
such previous consent having been obtained. 


Article XXIII. — It is understood, however, that her Britan- 
nic Majesty, in according protection to such routes of communi- 
cation, and guaranteeing their neutrality and security, always 
intends that the protection and guarantee are granted condi- 
tionally, and may be withdrawn if her Britannic Majesty should 
deem that the persons or company undertaking or managing 
the same, adopt or establish such regulations concerning the 
traffic thereupon as are contrary to the spirit and intention of 
this Treaty, either by making unfair discriminations in favour of 
the commerce of any other nation or nations, or by imposing op- 
pressive exactions or unreasonable tolls upon mails, passengers, 
vessels, goods, wares, merchandise, or other articles. The 
aforesaid protection and guarantee shall not, however, be with- 
drawn by her Britannic Majesty without first giving six months' 
notice to the Republic of Nicaragua. 

Aeticle XXIY. — And it is further understood and agreed 
that, in any grant or contract which may hereafter be made or 
entered into by the Government of Nicaragua, having reference 
to the interoceanic routes above referred to, or any of them, the 
rights and privileges granted by this convention to her Britan- 
nic Majesty, and to British subjects, shall be fully protected 
and reserved ; and if any such grant or contract now exist of a 
valid character, it is further understood that the guarantee and 
protection of her Britannic Majesty stipulated in Article XXI. 
of this Treaty shall be held inoperative and void, until the 
holders of such grant or contract shall recognize the concessions 
made in this Treaty to her Britannic Majesty, and to British 
subjects, with respect to such interoceanic routes, or any of 
them, and shall agree to observe, and be governed by, those 
concessions as fully as if they had been embraced in their ori- 
ginal grant or contract ; after which recognition and agreement, 
the said guarantee and protection shall be in full force : pro- 
vided that nothing herein contained shall be construed either to 
affirm or deny the validity of any of the said contracts. 

Aeticle XXY. — After ten years from the completion of a 


canal, railroad, or any other route of communication, through 
the territory of Nicaragua, from the Atlantic to the Pacific 
Ocean, no company which may have constructed or be in pos- 
session of the same, shall ever divide, directly or indirectly, 
by the issue of new stock, the payment of dividends, or other- 
wise, more than 15 per cent, per annum, or at that rate, to 
its stockholders, from tolls collected thereupon ; but whenever 
the tolls shall be found to yield a larger profit than this, they 
shall be reduced to the standard of 15 per cent, per annum. 

Article XXVII. — The present Treaty shall remain in force 
for the term of twenty years from the day of the exchange of 
ratifications ; and if neither party shall notify to the other 
its intention of terminating the same, twelve months before 
the expiration of the twenty years stipulated above, the said 
Treaty shall continue binding on both parties beyond the said 
twenty years, until twelve months from the time that one of the 
parties may notify to the other its intention of terminating it. 

Article XXVIII. — The present Treaty of Friendship, Com- 
merce, and Navigation, shall be ratified, and the ratifications 
shall be exchanged at London as soon as possible within six 
months from this date. 

In witness whereof the respective Plenipotentaries have 
signed the same, and have affixed thereto their respective seals. 

Done at Managua, this eleventh day of February, in the year 
of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty. 

(L.S.) Charles Lennox Wyke. 
(L.S.) Pedro Zeledon. 




Signed at Managua, January 28, 1860. 
Presented to both Souses of Parliament by Command of Her Majesty. 

Article I. — On exchanging the ratifications of the present 
Treaty, Her Britannic Majesty, subject to the conditions and 
engagements specified therein, and without prejudice to any 
question of boundary between the Republics of Nicaragua and 
Honduras, will recognize as belonging to and under the sove- 
reignty of the Republic of Nicaragua, the country hitherto occu- 
pied or claimed by the Mosquito Indians within the frontier of 
that Republic, whatever that frontier may be. 

The British Protectorate of that part of the Mosquito terri- 
tory shall cease three months after the exchange of the ratifica- 
tions of the present Treaty, in order to enable Her Majesty's 
Government to give the necessary instructions for carrying out 
the stipulations of said Treaty. 

Article II. — A district within the territory of the Republic 
of Nicaragua shall be assigned to the Mosquito Indians, which 
district shall remain as above stipulated, under the sovereignty 
of the Republic of Nicaragua. 

Such district shall be comprised in a line which shall begin 
at the mouth of the River Rama in the Caribbean Sea ; thence 
it shall run up the midcourse of that river to its source, and 
from such source proceed in a line due west to the meridian of 
84° 15' longitude west from Greenwich ; thence due north up 
the said meridian until it strikes the River Hueso, and down 
the midcourse of that river to its mouth in the sea, as laid 
down in Baily's map, at about latitude from 14° to 15° north, 
and longitude 83° west from the meridian of Greenwich; and 
thence southerly along the shore of the Caribbean Sea to the 
mouth of the River Rama, the point of commencement. 

But the district thus assigned to the Mosquito Indians may 


not be ceded by them to any foreign person or State, but shall be 
and remain under the sovereignty of the Republic of Nicaragua. 

Article III. — The Mosquito Indians, within the district de- 
signated in the preceding Article, shall enjoy the right of go- 
verning, according to their own customs, and according to any 
regulations which may from time to time be adopted by them, 
not inconsistent with the sovereign rights of the Republic of 
Nicaragua, themselves, and all persons residing within such 
district. Subject to the above-mentioned reserve, the Republic 
of Nicaragua agrees to respect and not to interfere with such 
customs and regulations so established, or to be established, 
within the said district. 

Article V. — The Republic of Nicaragua being desirous of 
promoting the social improvement of the Mosquito Indians, and 
of providing for the maintenance of the authorities to be consti- 
tuted under the provisions of Article III. of this Treaty, in the 
district assigned to the said Indians, agrees to grant to the said 
authorities, for the space of ten years, with a view to such pur- 
poses, an annual sum of five thousand hard dollars. The said 
sum shall be paid at Greytown, by half-yearly payments, to 
such person as may be authorized by the Chief of the Mosquito 
Indians to receive the same, and the first payment shall be 
made six months after the exchange of the ratifications of the 
present Treaty. 

Article VI. — Her Britannic Majesty engages to use her 
good offices with the Chief of the Mosquito Indians, so that he 
shall accept the stipulations which are contained in this con- 

Article VIII. — All bona fide grants of land for due conside- 
ration made in the name and by the authority of the Mosquito 
Indians, since the 1st of January, 1848, and lying beyond the 
limits of the territory reserved for the said Indians, shall be 
confirmed ; provided the same shall not exceed in any case the 
extent of one hundred yards square, if within the limits of San 
Juan or Greytown, or one league square if without the same ; 
and provided that such grant shall not interfere with other legal 


grants made previously to that date by Spain, the Republic of 
Central America, or Nicaragua; and provided further, that no such 
grant shall include territory desired by the Government of the 
latter State, for forts, arsenals, or other public buildings. This 
stipulation only embraces those grants of land made since the 
1 st of January, 1848. 

It is understood that the grants of land treated of in this 
Article shall not extend to the westward of the territory re- 
served for the Mosquito Indians in Article II. further than 84° 
30' of longitude, in a line parallel and equal with that of the 
said territory on the same side ; and if it should appear that 
any grants have been made further in the interior of the Re- 
public, the lands acquired bond fide shall be replaced with those 
that are within the limit defined under the regulations agreed 
upon. In case, however, any of the grants referred to in the 
preceding paragraph of this Article shall be found to exceed 
the stipulated extent, the Commissioners hereinafter mentioned 
shall, if satisfied of the bona fides of any such grants, confirm 
to the grantee or grantees, or to his or their representatives or 
assigns, an area only equal to the stipulated extent. And in 
case any bond fide grant, or any part thereof, should be desired 
by the Government for forts, arsenals, or other public buildings, 
an equivalent extent of land shall be allotted to the grantees 

It is understood that the grants of land treated of in this 
Article shall not extend to the westward of the territory re- 
served for the Mosquito Indians in Article II. further than 
84° 30' of longitude, in a line parallel and equal with that of 
the said territory on the same side ; and if it should appear 
that any grants have been made further in the interior of the 
Republic, the lands acquired bond fide shall be replaced with 
those that are within the limit defined under the regulations 
agreed upon. 

In witness whereof the respective Plenipotentiaries have 
signed the same, and have affixed thereto their respective seals. 

Done at Managua, this 28th day of January, 1860. 

(L.S.) Charles Lennox Wyke. 

(L.S.) Pedro Zeledon. 



In proceeding to the exchange of the ratifications of the 
Treaty concluded and signed at Managua on the 28th of Ja- 
nuary, I860, between Her Majesty the Queen of the United 
Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and the Kepublic of Ni- 
caragua, relative to the Mosquito Indians and to the rights and 
claims of British subjects, the undersigned, her Britannic Ma- 
jesty' s Principal Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and the 
Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary of the Repub- 
lic of Nicaragua, hereby declare that the limitation laid down in 
the paragraph added by the Congress of the Kepublic to Article 
VIII. of the said Treaty applies to grants of land to the west of 
the meridian of 84° 30' of longitude throughout the whole ex- 
tent of the territory hitherto occupied or claimed by the Mos- 
quito Indians within the frontier of the Republic, but not to 
grants in any part of the said territory to the east of that me- 
ridian line. 

In witness whereof the undersigned have signed the present 
Declaration, and have affixed thereto their respective seals. 

Done at London, the 2nd day of August, 1860. 

(L.S.) J. Russell. 

(L.S.) J. de Marcoleta. 



Signed at Comayagua, November 28, 1859. 

Presented to both Mouses of Parliament by Command of Her Majesty. 

Article I. — Taking into consideration the peculiar geo- 
graphical position of Honduras, and in order to secure the neu- 


trality of the Islands adjacent thereto,, with reference to any 
railway or other line of interoceanic communication which may 
be constructed across the territory of Honduras on the main- 
land, her Britannic Majesty agrees to recognize the Islands of 
Ruatan, Gruanaca, Elena, Utile, Barbarete, and Morat, known 
as the Bay Islands, and situated in the Bay of Honduras, as a 
part of the Republic of Honduras. 

The inhabitants of the said Islands shall not be disturbed in 
the enjoyment of any property which they may have acquired 
therein, and shall retain perfect freedom of religious belief and 
worship, public and private, but remaining in all other respects 
subject to the laws of the Republic. If any of them should wish 
to withdraw from the Islands, they shall be at full liberty to do 
so, to dispose of their fixed or other property as they may 
think fit, and to take with them the proceeds thereof. 

The Republic of Honduras engages not to cede the said 
islands, or any of them, or the right of sovereignty over such 
islands, or any of them, or any part of such sovereignty, to any 
nation or state whatsoever. 

Aeticlb II. — Her Britannic Majesty engages, subject to the 
conditions and engagements specified in the present Treaty, 
and without prejudice to any question of boundary between the 
Republics of Honduras and Nicaragua, to recognize as belong- 
ing to and under the sovereignty of the Republic of Honduras, 
the country hitherto occupied or possessed by the Mosquito In- 
dians within the frontier of that Republic, whatever that frontier 
may be. 

The British protectorate of that part of the Mosquito terri- 
tory shall cease three months after the exchange of the ratifica- 
tions of the present Treaty, in order to enable her Majesty's 
Government to give the necessary instructions for carrying out 
the stipulations of said Treaty. 

Article III. — The Mosquito Indians in the district recog- 
nized by Article II. of this Treaty as belonging to and under 
the sovereignty of the Republic of Honduras, shall be at liberty 


to remove, with their property, from the territory of the Repub- 
lic, and to proceed whithersoever they may desire ; and such of 
the Mosquito Indians who remain within the said district shall 
not be disturbed in the possession of any lands or other pro- 
perty which they may hold or occupy, and shall enjoy, as na- 
tives of the Republic of Honduras, all rights and privileges en- 
joyed generally by the natives of the Republic. 

The Republic of Honduras being desirous of educating the 
Mosquito Indians, and improving their social condition in the dis- 
trict so occupied by them, will grant an annual sum of $5000 
in gold or silver, for the next ten years, for that purpose, to be 
paid to their headman in the said district ; the payment of such 
annual sum being guaranteed to them by a mortgage on all 
woods and other natural productions (whatever they may be) 
of the state lands in the Bay Islands and the Mosquito terri- 

These payments shall be made in half-yearly instalments, of 
$2500 each, the first of which payments shall be made six 
months after the exchange of the ratifications of the present 

Article IY. — Whereas British subjects have by grant, lease, 
or otherwise, heretofore obtained from the Mosquito Indians 
interests in various lands situated within the district mentioned 
in the preceding Article, the Republic of Honduras engages to 
respect and maintain such interests ; and it is further agreed 
that her Britannic Majesty and the Republic shall, within twelve 
months after the exchange of the ratifications of the present 
Treaty, appoint two Commissioners, one to be named by each 
party, in order to investigate the claims of British subjects 
arising out of such grants or leases, or otherwise ; and all Bri- 
tish subjects whose claims shall, by the Commissioners, be pro- 
nounced well founded and valid, shall be quieted in the posses- 
sion of their respective interests in the said lands. 

In witness whereof the respective Plenipotentaries have 
signed the same, and have affixed thereto their respective 


Done at Comayagua, the twenty-eighth day of November, in 
the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and fifty 

(L.S.) C. Lennox Wyke. 

(L.S.) Francisco Cruz. 



January 16, 1849. 

Mr. T. Butler King, from the Committee on Naval Affairs, 
made the following Report : — 

The Committee on Naval Affairs, to whom was referred the 
"Memorial of Wm. H. Aspinwall, John L. Stephens, and 
Henry Chauncey, praying aid from the Government of the 
United States to construct a Railroad across the Isthmus 
of Panama," have examined the subject with much care, 
and submit the following Report : — 

The intention of the memorialists is, if suitably aided by 
Government, to construct a railroad across the Isthmus of 
Panama, from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean. For this pur- 
pose they have procured a charter from the Government of New 
Granada, a copy of which is annexed to this Report, marked B 
(originally granted to a French company) , which secures to them 
very extensive privileges on the Isthmus, provided the work 
shall be commenced within eighteen months from the date of 
the transfer of the charter to them, and completed within eight 
years. The original privilege granted to the French company 
was for ninety -nine years. This term has been reduced, in the 
contract with the memorialists, to forty-nine years, and a right 
has been reserved to the Government of New Granada to pur- 
chase the railroad at the expiration of twenty years. 


The cost of the railroad, and the expense of its management 
in a tropical climate, will necessarily be so much greater than 
would be required in any work of similar extent in our own 
country, and the profits that may accrue on the investment are 
so uncertain, that, without efficient aid from Government, the 
memorialists will probably be compelled, as all others who have 
moved in this matter hitherto have been, to abandon the under- 
taking. It therefore becomes the duty of Congress to consider 
whether the tendency and interests of our commerce, agricul- 
ture, and manufactures, the convenience of governing and de- 
fending our widely extended territories on the shores of the 
Pacific, and of emigration to them, are objects of sufficient im- 
portance, when taken in connection with the proposed transport 
across the Isthmus of troops, munitions of war, and the mails, to 
justify the Government in giving such aid as may secure the 
completion of this great work within the time proposed — three 
years — and place its future management in the hands of our 
own citizens. Our commerce with all the countries bordering 
on the Pacific Ocean is rapidly on the increase, and especially 
with the South American republics and Mexico ; and it is be- 
lieved that a more frequent and speedy communication with 
China, and other countries of the Bast, will produce a rich 

Great Britain is principally indebted to her skill in com- 
merce and manufactures for her commercial ascendency, but she 
is also indebted in no small degree to her position. She not 
only has the ports of the continent of Europe as her neighbours, 
but she is fifteen hundred miles, or two weeks, nearer than we 
are to all the other ports of the world, except the Atlantic ports of 
the American continent north of the Equator and the West Indies. 
The cause of this is, that all vessels bound from our ports to 
places south of the Line, or beyond either of the Capes, cross 
the Atlantic to the Azores or Western Islands, for the purpose 
of finding favourable winds, while vessels from British ports run 
down to the same latitude and longitude without the necessity 
of crossing the ocean to avail themselves of the same advantages. 
This difference in favour of British commerce, running through 


our entire existence as a nation, has been a most serious obstacle 
for our merchants and navigators to contend with, and has of 
itself been a vast item in favour of the profits on British capital. 
Lieutenant M. F. Maury, Superintendent of the Observatory, 
has, within two or three years past, proposed a more direct route 
for vessels bound from our ports to ports on the Atlantic side of 
the American continent, south of the Equator and beyond Cape 
Horn, which will save about one thousand miles of the distance 
to those places, but all vessels bound round the Cape of Good 
Hope will be compelled to pursue the old route. 

The construction of the proposed railroad across the Isthmus 
will not only do away this advantage over us, now possessed by 
European commerce and navigation, but will turn the tide in our 

The average distance from Liverpool, London, and Havre to 
Panama, is 4700 miles; from New York, the distance is 
2000 miles; from Charleston, 1400; from Savannah, 1300; 
from New Orleans and Mobile, 1600 — making an average dis- 
tance from our principal exporting Atlantic and Grulf ports of 
about 1 600 miles to Panama. If, therefore, we admit, for the 
sake of the argument, that European commerce with the Pacific 
Ocean, the East India and China Seas, will take the new route 
across the Isthmus — there will be a difference of 3100 miles in 
our favour. Add to this the 1500 miles now against us, and 
we find that we shall gain by this channel of communication, 
in our relative position to those parts of the world, a distance 
of 4600 miles, or of 42 days. In the voyage out and home we 
shall have the advantage of our European competitors of 9200 
miles, and 84 days, as compared with the present route. 

This is admitting that European ships will come freighted to 
the terminus of the railroad on this side of the Isthmus, with 
cargoes intended for the markets of the Pacific and China. 
That, however, will not be the case. The large number of 
vessels bound to the ports of the United States for cotton, rice, 
tobacco, lumber, flour, provisions, etc. etc., will bring the 
freights for those markets as ballast or cargoes, whence they 
will be conveyed to the railroad in our own fast-sailing coasting 

2 E 


vessels and steamers, which will also bring to us the commerce 
of the Pacific. This is very obvious, because, if European ships 
were to sail with full cargoes direct to the railroad, they would 
run the risk of being compelled to return without freight, or 
come to the United States for it. We are so much nearer to 
the Isthmus than the ports of Europe, and our means of com- 
munication and information will be so frequent and certain, our 
lines of steamers and coasting vessels so constantly on the alert, 
and will move with such celerity, that heavy European-freight- 
ing ships will find it quite impossible to compete with them. If 
this view of the subject be correct, and we believe it is, the 
construction of this railroad ivill throw into our warehouses and 
shipping the entire commerce of the Pacific Ocean. Our ports 
are on the very wayside from Europe to the Isthmus of Panama, 
and our lines of steamers and packet ships across the Atlantic 
will come laden with the freights for that channel of trade. The 
commerce, therefore, from Europe to the East Indies, China, 
and the west coast of this continent, will be forced to pursue 
the old route, or fall into our hands. 

It is thus shown that the new route across the Isthmus will 
bring us more than an average of 10,000 miles nearer to the 
East Indies, China, and the ports of South America on the 
Pacific, and will actually, for all the purposes of navigation and 
commercial intercourse, bring the- ports of the west coast of 
Mexico, California, and Oregon, 14,000 miles nearer to us than 
they now are ! With steamers on each side of the Isthmus that 
will go fifteen miles an hour — a speed ascertained to be quite 
practicable — passengers, the mails, and small packages of light 
and valuable goods may be conveyed from New York to San 
Francisco in fourteen days, and from our southern ports in less 
time : thus bringing these remote points, for all practical pur- 
poses, nearer than New York and New Orleans were twenty 
years ago. 

The employment of steam-vessels would render the contrast 
in our favour still more striking. But the difficulty and expense 
of transporting heavy merchandise across the Isthmus in its 
present state, and the distance round the Capes, render the em- 



ployment of steam in the carrying trade to the East Indies, 
China, and the west coast of America, quite impracticable. The 
most that can be done is to employ steam-packets in the con- 
veyance of the mails and passengers. Let this railroad be com- 
pleted, however, and no part of the world will present as great 
advantages for the successful use of steam in ocean navigation as 
the Pacific. Coal is found on all its borders, both American and 
Asiatic, in the greatest quantity and perfection. Its quiet waters 
seem to indicate steam as the proper agent to be employed in 
their navigation. The spirit and genius of the American people, 
and the extent of our territory on the west side of the continent, 
proclaim clearly enough that we are to become the legitimate 
heirs of a vast commerce that shall spread fleets of steam-ships 
over the bosom of this peaceful ocean. 

Steamers, with a speed of twelve miles an hour, would go 
from New York, via the Isthmus (throwing out the fractions) — 

To Calcutta . 

in 47 days. 

To Canton 

. .36 „ 

To Shanghae . 

. 35 „ 

To Valparaiso 

■ • 17 „ 

To Callao 

. • 12 „ 

To Guayaquil 

92 „ 

To Panama 

. 7 „ 

To San Bias . 

. 12 „ 

To Mazatlan . 

. 14 „ 

To San Diego 

. 16 „ 

To San Francisco . 

. 18 „ 

When we consider the remarkable results presented in the 
foregoing table, and compare our present condition with what 
it will be when the proposed railroad shall be completed, and 
the advantages we shall then possess over all competitors for 
the commerce of the Pacific and the east, we need not be sur- 
prised that European capitalists have refused to lend their aid to 
the accomplishment of an undertaking which will not only de- 
prive them of the decided superiority which they now possess 
over us in their intercourse with nine-tenths of the world — ex- 
clusive of ourselves — but will place us so far ahead in the race 
for commercial supremacy, that they can never overtake us. 

2 E 2 


Whether any considerations of this nature have been the secret 
cause of the failure of all the efforts hitherto made in Europe to 
open a communication across the Isthmus of Panama, we pretend 
not to say ; but we think it by no means improbable that men 
who now hold in their hands the purse-strings of the world, 
would decline taking any steps which would so evidently de- 
prive them of their commanding position, and transfer the seat 
of the money power to our shores. 

If a wise sagacity has deterred them from aiding to advance 
us at their expense, we may justly be regarded as blind to our 
true interests if we hesitate to adopt such measures as will 
secure the prize which is offered to us. In all great public 
movements, it is as natural, as it is evidently proper, that every 
nation should consider well what course of policy will best pro- 
mote its own prosperity and contribute to its security. With 
regard, therefore, to a channel of communication across the 
Isthmus of Panama, it was to be expected that, while European 
governments and capitalists would acknowledge its vast import- 
ance to the commerce of the world, they would not fail to 
perceive that its completion would transfer the seat of com- 
mercial empire to the western hemisphere. Hence the scheme 
of a ship canal has found no favour with them except in empty 
words, whilst a railroad is openly objected to as worse for them 

than no communication at all 

If any change is to be given to the course of European com- 
merce with the west coast of America and the East Indies, by 
a communication across the Isthmus of Panama, it is quite clear 
that a ship-canal would be the only channel that could save it 
from falling into our hands, while it is equally certain that our 
interests point to a railroad as best suited, in all respects, to our 

California has now been added to our territory on the Pacific. 
Its beautiful and commodious harbours, its delightful climate, 
the fertility of its soil, and its mineral wealth, are attracting 
thousands, and, probably, tens of thousands of our fellow- citizens 
to it. The most rapid means of communication should he es- 
tablished to facilitate their emigration, protect them in their new 


homes j supply their wants, and enable them still to participate in 
the blessings of our free institution. They will be large con- 
sumers of manufactures of every description, and, for some years 
to come, at least, of our agricultural products also 

If, however, our commerce with that territory shall still be 
forced to find its way round Cape Horn, and pass twice through 
the tropics, our agriculture will be entirely deprived of this 
market, because it is well known that it is almost impossible to 
preserve flour, and many other articles equally perishable, so 
many months on shipboard in the warm latitudes through 
which they would have to pass. Therefore the Californian 
market would, of necessity, be supplied, at very high prices, 
from Chili, and other states bordering the Pacific. These views 
alone, if properly considered, possess sufficient force, it seems 
to us, to justify the favourable action of the Government on the 
application of the memorialists 

In a report which your committee had the honour to present 
to the House, at its last session, on " steam communication with 
JOhina." the commerce of the United States with that country 
was so fully examined, that it is not deemed necessary on the 
present occasion to repeat the arguments then presented to 
show the vast importance of the proposed communication across 
the Isthmus, which was then, and is now regarded as the in- 
strument which is to change our commercial relations with the 
whole world, and as being inseparably connected with our sys- 
tem of steam navigation 

We have already spoken of the commanding position which 
Great Britain occupies in the commercial world, and we deem 
it proper to remark still further on the advantages she has de- 
rived from it. At an early day she adopted the warehousing 
system. This enabled her own merchants and those of all 
other countries to place merchandise in bond, for consumption 
or exportation. It has been equally beneficial to her commerce 
and manufactures. 

While it has exempted the merchants from paying duties 
on importations beyond actual consumption, it has enabled 
them to make up, with home manufactures and foreign commo- 


dities, assorted cargoes for all parts of the world. Foreigners 
have thus been induced to place immense amounts of merchan- 
dise in bond, that they might have the double advantage of con- 
sumption or re-exportation. 

The manufacturer has thus been enabled to allow the raw 
materials, necessary to his pursuit, to remain in store until re- 
quired for use, without being burdened with the payment of 
large sums in duties on importations not immediately wanted. 
A vast supply has thus been constantly held, at the expense of the 
foreign producer. 

The total value of articles imported into the United States in 
1848, was 154,977,876 dollars; the value of articles re-ex- 
ported was 7,986,806 dollars. Thus it will be seen that we re- 
export but a little more than one-twentieth of our imports, and 
that the re-exportations from Great Britain are nearly five times 
larger in proportion to her imports than ours, and are actually 
nine times larger than ours. Now, if by the construction of the 
proposed work, we give such a direction to the course of trade 
as to bring us almost in a central position between Europe and 
Asia, it seems impossible to resist the conclusion that our ware- 
houses must become the great depots, and our cities the marts 
of modern commerce. 

There are two important provisions in the charter, which it 
is proper to mention, as they limit very materially the privileges 
of the Company. The first is in Article 22, which stipulates 
" that the Company shall be obliged to convey, without delay, 
all the correspondence (mails) which may be delivered to it, and 
that the price of conveyance along the whole extent of the road 
shall not exceed eight reals — one cent a pound — per quintal." 
In the " schedule of duties and obligations " of the Company, 
Article 16 is as follows : — " The Company, on the receipt of the 
tolls and payments for transportation fixed by it, contracts the 
obligation to execute continually, with care, punctuality, and 
expedition, and without any national preferences, the transport 
of passengers, cattle, goods, merchandise, and materials of every 
description which may be entrusted to it, all which shall be trans- 
ported without abatement of the rates of payment in favour of 


any one." These stipulations are proper, and present the in- 
tentions of the Granadian Government in a very favourable 
light ; but it is well to remark that if this charter were in the 
hands of a foreign company, over whose movements we could 
not exercise control, and whose interests might be — we may 
say, would be — adverse to ours, it is by no means impossible 
that a future administration of that Government might consent 
to rescind these restrictions, and that heavy and ruinous exac- 
tions on our commerce might not be the consequence. 

It may, therefore, be regarded as a fortunate circumstance 
that this charter has fallen into the hands of our own citizens, 
and that their application for aid may enable the Government, 
in granting it, to place such restrictions on their future move- 
ments as shall be a perfect guarantee against any action of the 
company adverse to our interests. This alone is a very weighty 
consideration with the committee in the recommendations which 
they are about to make. 

The first section of the thirty-fifth article of the " Treaty of 
Peace, Navigation, and Commerce, with the Eepublic of New 
Granada," which was ratified in this city on the 12th day of 
June last, is as follows : — 

' c The United States of America and the Eepublic of New 
Granada, desiring to make as durable as possible the relations 
which are to be established between the two parties by virtue 
of this treaty, have declared solemnly, and do agree to the fol- 
lowing points : — 

" 1st. For the better understanding of the preceding articles, 
it is, and has been stipulated between the high contracting 
parties, that the citizens, vessels, and merchandise of the United 
States, shall enjoy in the ports of New Granada, including those 
of the part of the Granadian territory generally denominated 
Isthmus of Panama, from its southernmost extremity, until the 
boundary of Costarica, all the exemptions, privileges, and im- 
munities, concerning commerce and navigation, which are now 
or may hereafter be enjoyed by Granadian citizens, their 
vessels, and merchandise ; and that this equality of favour shall 
be made to extend to the passengers, correspondence, and mer- 


chandise of the United States in their transit across the said 
territory from one sea to the other. The Government of New- 
Granada guarantees to the Government of the United States 
that the right of way or transit across the Isthmus of Panama 
upon any modes of communication that now exist, or that may 
be hereafter constructed, shall be open and free to the Govern- 
ment and citizens of the United States, and for the transporta- 
tion of any articles of produce, manufactures, and merchandise, 
of lawful commerce, belonging to the citizens of the United 
States ; that no other tolls or charges shall be levied or collected 
upon the citizens of the United States or their merchandise 
thus passing over any road or canal that may be made by the 
Government of New Granada, or by the authority of the same, 
than is, under like circumstances, levied upon and collected from 
the Granadian citizens ; that any lawful produce, manufactures, 
or merchandise belonging to citizens of the United States, thus 
passing from one sea to the other, in either direction, for the 
purpose of exportation to any other foreign country, shall not 
be liable to any import duties whatever, or, having paid such 
duties, they shall be entitled to drawback upon their exportation ; 
nor shall the citizens of the United States be liable to any du- 
ties, tolls, or charges of any kind to which native citizens are 
not subjected for thus passing the said Isthmus. And, in order 
to secure to themselves the tranquil and constant enjoyment of 
these advantages, and, as an especial compensation for the said 
advantages, and for the favours they have acquired by the 4th, 
5th, and 6th Articles of this treaty, the United States guarantee 
positively and efficaciously to New Granada, by the present 
stipulations, the perfect neutrality of the before-mentioned 
Isthmus, with the view that the free transit from the one to the 
other sea may not be interrupted or embarrassed in any future 
time while this treaty exists ; and, in consequence, the United 
States also guarantee, in the same manner, the rights of sove- 
reignty and property which New Granada has and possesses 
over the said territory." 

The second section declares, that " the present treaty shall re- 
main in full force and vigour for the term of twenty years from the 


day of the exchange of ratifications." And the third section sti- 
pulates that, " notwithstanding the foregoing, if neither party 
notices to the other its intention of reforming any of or all the 
articles of this treaty, twelve months before the expiration of 
the twenty years stipulated above, the said treaty shall remain 
binding on both parties, beyond the said twenty years, until 
twelve months from the time that one of the parties notifies its 
intention of proceeding to a reform." 

This is, in fact, a defensive league, on our part, with New 
Granada, in which we virtually guarantee her sovereignty and 
independence for the term of twenty years, and as much longer 
as either party shall not notify the other of ' ' its intention of pro- 
ceeding to a reform " of the treaty. This is a very wide depar- 
ture from our foreign policy hitherto, and its justification is only 
to be found in the exigency of the case — the overruling neces- 
sities of our position with reference to our territories on the 
Pacific. The pass across the Isthmus of Panama is the only 
route by which easy, regular, and speedy communication can be 
established with them, and by which, in fact, it has already been 
established ; and there is no power on earth, except New Gra- 
nada herself, which may say to us, " thou shalt not cross the 
Isthmus," without meeting the prompt resistance of the whole 
power of the Union. This treaty, therefore, is but a simple ad- 
vertisement to all the world, that for the next twenty years, at 
least, we will, with the permission of New Granada, cross the 
Isthmus of Panama, and you must not interfere. This is what 
we should say if there were no treaty, and, therefore, there is 
no harm in saying it in the treaty. The stipulation which places 
the citizens of the United States on an equality, with respect to 
the transit of passengers and freight, with those of New Gra- 
nada, was, doubtless, intended to protect American interests 
from unreasonable or improper exactions. But as the quantity 
of freight and number of passengers belonging to New Granada, 
which will pass over the railroad, will be small in comparison 
to the commerce and travel from the United States, it is doing: 
that Government no injustice to imagine, that were this under- 
taking in the hands of a foreign company, it might consent to re- 


gul at ions which would not be felt by its own citizens, but which 
would be perfectly ruinous to ours; and besides, the treaty 
does not provide that the commerce, citizens, or subjects of other 
countries shall not be placed, by any company, on a more fa- 
vourable footing than those of New Granada, and consequently 
than ours. 

The guarantee of the Government of New Granada to the 
Government of the United States of "the right of way or transit 
across the Isthmus of Panama, upon any modes of communi- 
cation that now exist or that may be hereafter constructed," 
simply means that the Government of New Granada will not 
forbid us from crossing the Isthmus on a railroad if we pay for it 
— or, that the citizens of the United States may be required to 
pay as much as the Government of New Granada may con- 
sent that the citizens of that republic shall pay — though the 
merchandise, subjects, or citizens of other countries might be 
allowed to pass at half the price. To guard against imposi- 
tions from any quarter, and secure the interests of the United 
States beyond contingency, the committee have deemed it 
proper, in the bill submitted herewith, to provide that a large 
majority of the stock of the railroad shall be held by American 

Much has been said respecting a communication across the 
Isthmus of Tehuantepec, and representations have been made 
that the depth of water on the bar is sufficient to justify the 
construction of a ship-canal. This question has been effectually 
decided by the survey of Lieutenant William Leigh, United 
States Navy, who has recently made a very accurate survey of the 
bar at the mouth of the river Coatzacoalcos (the entrance to the 
harbour on the gulf side of the Isthmus), and found but twelve 
feet and a half of water at low tide, and but two feet rise of tide 
on the bar. A safe deduction for the swell of the sea would 
enable vessels drawing about twelve feet to cross the bar into 
the canal. The survey of Lieutenant Leigh has been published 
at the Observatory, and may be regarded as the highest autho- 
rity for saying that, if a ship-canal were constructed across that 
Isthmus, it would not be possible to get ships into it. If, how- 


ever, nature had imposed no obstructions at the entrance of the 
harbour, there are other considerations which, it is believed, are 
of sufficient weight to render the expenditure of money at that 
point inexpedient. There are few who have attentively observed 
the progress of opinion in this country during the last few years, 
who will deny that the people of the United States are now 
looking with much anxiety to the construction . of a railroa d 
from some point on the Mississippi river to the Bay of San 
Francisco ; and it is not probable that twenty years will be al- 
lowed to pass before this great and necessary work will be ac- 
complished. This road will form the great northern line of com- 
munication, while that across the Isthmus of Panama will be the 
southern. There is no necessity for an intermediate line. When 
the northern line shall be completed, it will become the great 
thoroughfare to California, Oregon, the islands in the North Pa- 
cific, Japan, China, Manilla, etc. etc. ; while the southern line 
will be the channel of communication to the ports on the west 
coast of Mexico, South America, New Zealand, New Holland, 
and the islands of the South Pacific. It would probably cost 
one-half as much to construct a ship-canal across the Isthmus 
of Tehuantepec as it would to make a railroad from the Missis- 
sippi river to San Francisco 

The committee recommend, therefore, that a grant of two 
hundred and fifty thousand dollars per annum be made to the 
memorialists, for the purpose of enabling them to complete the 
work, on the conditions stated in their memorial, which is an- 
nexed to this Eeport, marked A. Their charter from the Go- 
vernment of New Granada allows them eight years in which to 
complete their railroad. They propose to finish it in three years. 
This will be a saving of five years. The above items show an 
annual saving of 4,250,000 dollars, which, for the five years, 
will amount to 21,250,000 dollars. It will, therefore, be per- 
ceived how very important it is that the road shall be completed 
as soon as possible. One year's delay will cause nearly as great 
a loss as the whole amount proposed to be granted to the Com- 
pany, in yearly payments, for twenty years. 

The proposed grant will be five per cent, on the investment, 


and will probably not greatly exceed the amount which the Go- 
vernment would pay annually for the services stipulated by the 
memorialists to be performed. 

The committee recommend the passage of the bill herewith 


BER, 1857. 

Whereas the supreme Government of Nicaragua did, on the 
27th day of August, 1849, through their Commissioners, Her- 
mangildo Zapida and Gregorio Juarez, enter into and sign a 
contract with the American Atlantic and Pacific Ship Canal 
Company, which said contract was ratified by the Congress of 
the Kepublic of Nicaragua on the 22nd day of September, 1849, 
and afterwards amended on the 9th day of March, 1850, which 
amendments were ratified and confirmed by the Congress of 
said Kepublic, and by decree of the supreme director, the 11th 
day of April, 1850; 

And whereas, by Article 2 of said contract, the dimensions of 
the said ship-canal, to be constructed by the aforesaid Com- 
pany, are defined and fixed ; 

And whereas it has been ascertained and determined by 
careful and thorough examination of engineers, that a Canal of 
the dimensions required in and by the aforesaid Article cannot 
be constructed, because of a want of water of sufficient depth in 
the Lake of Nicaragua ; 

And whereas by Article 30 of said contract, the Company 
are required to construct a railroad and water communication 


between the two oceans, should the construction of the said 
canal become impossible for reasons or causes therein named ; 

And whereas it is desirable that a railroad and water com- 
munication should be established as speedily as possible on 
terms advantageous to both the Kepublic and the Company : 

The following amendments and addition to the aforesaid con- 
tract have been mutually agreed on, by and between the State 
and the Company. 

Dated and signed in New York, 19th Jnne, 1857, by A. J. de Iri- 
sarri, Minister Plenipotentiar5 , and H. Gr. Stebbins, President 
of the American Atlantic and Pacific Ship Canal Company. 

Extracts from the " Amended Charter " of the American Atlantic 
and Pacific Ship Canal Company. 

1. The obligation to construct the canal on the part of the 
Company is dispensed with, but in lieu of said canal the Com- 
pany shall establish across the territory of the State between 
the two oceans a communication by water and railroad, within 
two years from the ratification of this contract by the proper 
authorities of Nicaragua. 

2. Article 6 of the primary contract is stricken out, and in 
lieu thereof the following is inserted : — " The said State shall 
receive one dollar and fifty cents, of lawful money of the United 
States of America, for every passenger conveyed by said Com- 
pany across the State ;" defines how the money shall be paid, 
and number of passengers ascertained. [This article shall apply 
to all passengers conveyed by the Company by carriage, road, 
and water communication during the two years allowed for the 
construction of the railroad. ,] 

3. Kegulates the question of passports for persons intending 
to stay in Nicaragua. 

4. In the event of the said State being invaded by any pub- 
lic or other enemy, the steamers of the Company may be em- 
ployed by the Government of the said State for the transporta- 
tion of their troops, ammunition, provision, etc., on the request 
of the proper officers. But whenever said steamers, or any one of 
them, shall be so used or employed, the Company shall charge 


therefor the actual running expenses, and no more ; which said 
charge shall be adjusted between the Company and the State, 
and the amount thereof deducted from the per capita tax herein 
agreed to be paid. 

The provisions of this Article contained, as to any public or 
other enemy, shall not be applicable to the Government of the 
United States of America, or such other Government as may 
enter into treaty stipulations similar to those which may be en- 
tered into between said Government of the United States and 
the Eepublic of Nicaragua, for the protection of said Company. 

The ratification of the amended Charter took place in Ma- 
nagua on the 27th day of July, 1857, and signed by Maximo 
Jerez and Tomas Martinez. And further, it was accepted, 
ratified by the constituent assembly of Nicaragua. By a clause 
in the ratification, it was left to the discretion of Mr. Irissari 
to deliver the same or not, as he might think fit. 

The contract was handed to the Company by Mr. Irissari, 
and certain explanations appended thereto, which read as fol- 
lows : — 

Explanatory Articles. 

Whereas I, Don Antonio Jose de Irisarri, representing the 
Government of Nicaragua, by virtue of the most ample autho- 
rity conferred on me by the said Government, have required 
the American Atlantic and Pacific Ship Canal Company to 
make certain explanations of some Articles in the contract of 
the 27th August, 1849, and of 19th of June of the present 
year : and whereas the said Company have deemed it for their 
interest to make such explanations, we, the undersigned, on 
behalf of our respective principals, have agreed as follows : — 

Art. 1. The said Company agrees to issue their certificates 
of capital stock thereof, and commence to make the transit 
across the Isthmus of Nicaragua within ninety days from this 
date. Stipulates for notice to Mr. Irisarri, when the stock- 
books shall be open. 

2. The Company to deliver to Mr. Irissari 2000 shares of 
stock, according to primary contract of August, 1849. 


3. Company not to issue over 30,000 shares of capital stock, 
and mode of inspection of books of Company pointed out. 

4. Determines the proportion of profit on (C Mail Matter " to 
be paid to Nicaragua to be fixed at one-sixteenth of the gross 
sum received ; fixes also about the mails of the Government of 
Nicaragua, and official dispatches. 

5 (verbatim) . — In order to simplify and expedite the object 
proposed in Articles 33 and 34 of the contract of 27th August, 
1849, whenever it may be necessary to appoint arbitrators to 
decide such disputes and controversies as may arise between 
the Government of Nicaragua and the Company, only one 
arbitrator shall be appointed by each party, and in case of their 
disagreement, if the arbitrators do not, within three days, select 
a third arbitrator, application shall be made within ten days to 
the three oldest ministers plenipotentiary, or ministers resident 
in default of ministers plenipotentiary, or charges d'affaires in 
the absence of ministers resident, according to the dates of 
receptions at Washington, to select such third arbitrator ; and 
the minister or diplomatic representative of Nicaragua shall in 
no case be one of the three authorized to select. 

In case any one of the ministers or charges shall excuse him- 
self, or for any cause should not be able to act, his place shall 
be successively supplied by the next oldest minister or charge 
d'affaires } according to the order of receptions in Washington, 
until the object is attained. 

Persons interested in the Company, or the officers, agents, or 
employes thereof, cannot be appointed arbitrators, nor can the 
officers, agents, or employes of the Government of Nicaragua 
be so appointed. The arbitration shall take place in the City 
of New York. 

6. Stipulations as to the colonists which the Company may 
locate on their land grants. 

7. Relates to the mode of governing and defending them. 

8. Stipulates that nothing in the convention of August 27th, 
1849, or the contract of August 14th, 1851, nor in the fore- 
going convention of June 19th, 1857, shall be held or construed 
as a revival of the Accessory Transit Company, nor as an au- 


thority to revive or continue the same, the said Accessory 
Transit Company being considered as extinct. 

For any wilful breach or non-performance of any of these 
stipulations, or of the others contained in the contract of the 
] 9th June of this present year, or of the aforesaid convention 
of the 27th August, 1849, the Government of Nicaragua may 
annul the said contracts, after having submitted the question to 
the decision of the arbitrators as aforesaid, and after they shall 
have decided the question against the Company. And each of 
the articles and stipulations aforesaid shall be considered and 
observed as an integral part of the contract. 

Accepted, approved, ratified, and confirmed by the Govern- 
ment of Nicaragua, on the 27th July, 1857. 

And in testimony whereof, etc. 

Signed, 15th October, 1857. 

A. J. de Ieisarei, 

H. G-. Stebbins, President. 



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